THE Liberal Party candidate for Indi believes MP Cathy McGowan’s decision to retire has bolstered his chances of success in the federal seat.
Steve Martin made his observation on Friday as he began a tour of 50 towns across Indi in 50 days.
The launch at Myrtleford coincided with the Nationals announcing their preselection plan for Indi.
Nominations open at 9am on Monday and close at 5pm on February 1 with the preselection vote in Wodonga on Saturday February 16.
Nationals Indi branch chairman Simon Williamson said he expected a larger field than the two who contested Indi preselection in 2015 for the last federal election.
“I’ve certainly had a lot of interest and there seems to be a high proportion of female candidates that have shown interest,” he said.
Mr Williamson said Senator McKenzie had not told him whether she would stand for preselection.
Responding to news of the Nationals’ plans, Mr Martin was circumspect about the Coalition partner’s Indi intentions.
“The Nationals will run their process and that’s for their representation,” he said.
“I don’t think I’ll be providing any commentary on that.”
The Nationals have the final major jigsaw piece to fall into place for Indi’s poll, following Ms McGowan announcing on Monday her intention to make way for Helen Haines as an orange independent candidate.
Mr Martin said the absence of Ms McGowan from the contest would aid his prospects of returning Indi to Liberal Party hands.
“I think it does improve my chances,” he said.
“Clearly being an incumbent there are certain benefits and now everyone that comes in is going to be a new face.
“It (Ms McGowan departing) won’t really affect my approach at all.
“I’m out there trying to put a positive message to people as to what it could look like to have Steve Martin, Liberal candidate, as their local member.”
Mr Martin said his 50 towns in 50 days tour would cover two places on some days and conclude in Wodonga in early March.
He will be in Benalla on Sunday and Wangaratta on February 24 to coincide with that city’s marathon and fun runs.
“It’s about making sure we cover the whole electorate, I don’t want to be the person who is only taking perspectives of small groups,” Mr Martin said.
He met Alpine Shire mayor Ron Janas at Myrtleford and inspected works at Jubilee Park which was funded by the federal government along with Great Alpine Road improvements.