LABOR is increasingly unlikely to field a candidate in the battle for Ovens Valley at the upcoming Victorian election which could translate into a major boost to independent Tammy Atkins’ chances of winning the seat.
With less than two months before election day, Labor has not announced a candidate for Ovens Valley despite confirming candidates for neighbouring, Benambra and Euroa, in Mark Tait and Fionna Deppeler-Morton respectively.
The Border Mail attempted to contact Labor assistant state secretary Kosmos Samaras about a candidate being named after a Wangaratta branch official said she couldn’t comment.
Four years ago, Melbourne-based party staffer, Gail Cholosznecki, was announced as the candidate about three months before the election and despite a low profile, spending minimal time in the electorate and being unable to appear at a major candidates’ forum she still managed to attract 22 per cent of the primary vote.
In 2010, Labor’s Lachlan Enshaw polled 20 per cent of the primary vote when incumbent Tim McCurdy stood as the successor to long-serving Nationals’ representative, Ken Jasper.
On both occasions Mr McCurdy polled just over 50 per cent of primary votes and was duly elected.
But with the backing of the Voices For Indi movement and a high public profile due to her time on Wangaratta Council, Ms Atkins’ vote could be further boosted without Labor or the Greens in the mix.
If Mr McCurdy’s vote dropped below 50 per cent the seat will be declared on preferences and the National Party could lose another one-time heartland to an independent.
Four years ago another independent, Suzanna Sheed, beat Nationals’ candidate Greg Barr in Shepparton.
The Nationals are standing by Mr McCurdy after a court last week ordered him to stand trial on 10 fraud charges from his time as a real estate in 2009 before entering parliament.
They also refused to confirm or deny whether the Nationals commissioned a phone poll carried out in Ovens Valley on Tuesday night.
The Coalition Agreement prevents the Liberal Party standing a candidate in Ovens Valley.
Meanwhile, Labor Upper House member Jaclyn Symes was asked about Mr McCurdy’s predicament on a visit to Wodonga on Wednesday.
“Tim's personal court issues I'll leave for others to comment on,” she said.
“But I can tell you people in that community have not been happy with National Party representation for quite some time.
“I don't think these current circumstances are helping that either.
“There is a mood for change.”
Nationals’ state director Matt Harris said: “Advice from Tim’s legal representation before the committal hearing was that charges of this nature would usually proceed to trial, and that is the outcome Tim had expected.
“Tim maintains he has committed no wrongdoing, and that he looks forward to clearing his name.
“He is entitled to the presumption of innocence and a fair trial when that time comes.
“Tim will continue to work hard delivering for the people of the Ovens Valley electorate while this matter is resolved.”
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