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Edwards bows out as Libs gear up for battle

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Former Senator Sean Edwards will not seek state preselection, citing policy differences with Steven Marshall’s partyroom, but long-retired former frontbencher Wayne Matthew has confirmed his candidacy in Davenport as Liberal nominations today closed for a raft of key seats.

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Edwards, a pro-nuclear advocate who had toyed with the prospect of entering parliament in either Frome or Heysen, today confirmed: “I will not be seeking preselection for the 2018 state election.”

“My long-held position in obtaining cheap baseload energy with zero carbon emissions – desperately required for SA – is likely to put me at odds with the parliamentary team’s newly-stated views on gas exploration and nuclear, and providing a contest of ideas in this space,” he told InDaily.

“SA craves strong leadership on these issues, and I’ll focus on continuing my advocacy for economic reform through my strong associations with industry and commerce [and] I look forward to working with Steven Marshall as Premier following the next election in addressing these pressing issues.”

It’s understood there was little support from the leadership for his tilt, with the close of nominations in Heysen – one of 18 seats for which a call for candidates ended today – effectively spelling the end of his parliamentary prospects.

Party insiders say Edwards was also closely aligned with Kathleen Bourne, a prospective candidate in Geoff Brock’s seat of Frome who has previously run for the federal seat of Wakefield.

However, Bourne confirmed she had withdrawn her nomination ahead of a ballot in Frome tomorrow, citing personal reasons. Former candidate Kendall Jackson and ex-Port Pirie mayor Brenton Vanstone will contest the vote.

Bourne emphasised however that she was still “very much active within the party”, including as a state council delegate, saying a future nomination in Wakefield was “definitely a possibility, absolutely”.

The seats of Davenport and Colton are shaping up as key contests, with former state government minister Wayne Matthew confirming he had lodged a nomination today, after InDaily revealed his prospective candidacy this week.

He said he considered himself “probably a rank outsider” but would “go through the process of sitting down with as many delegates that are prepared to sit down and talk with me”.

InDaily has been told party president Steve Murray has also nominated, a move which could prompt some internal criticism, with insiders saying he expressly ruled out his potential candidacy at a state council meeting two years ago.

Murray has not returned calls.

However, as a former president of the Fisher state electoral committee – which now oversees much of the redistributed Davenport – he would be considered a favourite to win the nomination, and it’s believed he will have the backing of key right-wingers.

But InDaily can reveal a third candidate, radiologist Cara Miller, has also nominated for the seat. InDaily has been told by several sources that Miller has the backing of the influential Evans clan, who have long held sway in Liberal circles in Fisher and Davenport, but she insisted today “that’s not correct”.

“All of this will come out in due course, there’s a process around preselection and until I can actually finalise those commitments with the party and I’m announced as a candidate that’s nominated for preselection, I don’t really have comment at all,” she told InDaily ahead of the midday deadline.

cara miller

Radiologist and prospective Davenport candidate Cara Miller. Photo: www.soundradiology.com.au

Davenport has fallen vacant with the shift of first-term incumbent Sam Duluk to face defector Martin Hamilton-Smith in Waite. Duluk said today he would work with “whoever gets preselection in Davenport – whoever the college selects – in order to beat the Labor Party”.

While the ALP struggles to finalise a candidate for its most marginal seat of King, the Liberals are themselves expecting a spiteful stoush in the new northern suburbs seat. InDaily understands moderate-backed Tea Tree Gully councillor Paula Luethen-Soper will be taking on Salisbury councillor and former federal candidate for Makin Graham Reynolds.

Reynolds – who it’s understood has the backing of one-time state MP for Newland Dorothy Kotz, a noted conservative – told InDaily he had “no comment” on the nomination.

“I’m not confirming anything,” he said, arguing the matter was part of an “internal party process”.

Former Premier Dean Brown’s son Alex is now widely considered likely to knock off star recruit Matt Cowdrey in Colton.

The names of all nominees remain officially under wraps pending their assessment by the candidate review committee panel – which would usually include party president Murray. It’s not known if he’ll step aside as a presumptive candidate himself.

The party did confirm that the six sitting MPs in Adelaide, Black, Chaffey, Gibson, Hartley and Stuart were unopposed, with David Speirs and Corey Wingard swapping seats in Black and Gibson.

It’s understood Heysen SEC president Stephen Blacketer has confirmed his nomination to replace Isobel Redmond in the vulnerable Hills seat, despite vocal online criticisms of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed by InDaily this week. Anna Baric is widely considered the favourite for the seat, ahead of a glut of six candidates in total.

There was also keen interest in Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan’s seat of Lee, which has been whittled down to a vulnerable 2.6 per cent margin under the proposed new boundaries.

It’s understood local councillor Steven Rypp is one of five nominees in the seat.

Campbelltown deputy mayor Marijka Ryan has confirmed her nomination in Torrens, where Legislative Councillor Jing Lee wields significant influence, while InDaily has been told McLaren Vale vigneron Jock Harvey will push to run for Leon Bignell’s vulnerable seat of Mawson.

Liberal state director Sascha Meldrum said it was “fantastic to see such a high calibre of people nominating for preselection to represent the party at the next state election”.

“The party is calling for hard-working candidates committed to representing their local communities as part of a newly-elected Liberal State Government that will provide responsible leadership and deliver a clear pathway for the State’s recovery and success,” she said in a statement.

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