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Weatherill backs rising Labor star for crucial city seat

Politics

Premier Jay Weatherill has anointed left-faction colleague Jo Chapley to stand for Labor in the key seat of Adelaide, InDaily can reveal, as the ALP tries to claw back Liberal-held seats for the first time in over a decade.

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Chapley – who gave Liberal leader Steven Marshall a scare in his inner-eastern seat of Dunstan at the 2014 election – today confirmed she would nominate for preselection, saying: “The party has a process that will take place, but I would be honoured to serve the community as the member for Adelaide.”

Chapley – an in-house lawyer for her family’s successful Foodland supermarket chain – is from Labor’s left faction, while the seat was formerly contested by Prospect Mayor David O’Loughlin with the endorsement of the right. O’Loughlin has not responded to inquires, however Weatherill acknowledged his role in convincing Chapley to take on the challenge after calling on the party’s executive to open nominations for crucial battleground seats within weeks.

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Chapley (second from left) with left-faction colleagues Penny Wong, Gail Gago and Ian Hunter. Photo: Facebook

“I’ve asked Jo to consider her candidature for the seat of Adelaide for the next state election,” he said in a statement.

“Jo has a real passion for representing people and I’m sure she’ll make it her priority to meet as many people in the seat of Adelaide as she possibly can.”

It’s the second time in recent days the Premier has taken a public role in the placement of candidates in key seats, after recently endorsing former Channel 7 journalist Jayne Stinson for Badcoe and giving a firm direction to Elder incumbent Annabel Digance that he “expected” her to run again in her current electorate.

His intervention in a field generally dominated by Labor’s factional ‘machine’ is notable given the party’s need for credible candidates in Opposition-held seats.

With the likelihood of seats such as Elder and Colton falling to the Opposition – exacerbated by a proposed radical redistribution of electoral boundaries currently being contested by Labor in the Supreme Court – the party is gearing up to target Liberal-held seats for the first time since Mike Rann’s 2006 landslide.

Labor hasn’t removed a single Liberal MP from their seat since then, but has managed to hang on to power by ‘sandbagging’ key metropolitan marginals. However, with Labor only a seat from Opposition, that strategy is unlikely to be enough in next year’s election, with the likes of Adelaide, as well as Black and Gibson (formerly Bright and Mitchell) set for concerted Labor campaigns.

Adelaide’s already-slim margin will be whittled back to just two per cent if the proposed boundaries hold.

Chapley told InDaily: “The seat has changed significantly in recent years [and] it is important that the people of our inner metropolitan suburbs and our vibrant CBD have strong representation.”

“They are not getting that from their current local member,” she said.

But party insiders say the plan could leave Chapley locked out of parliament, after she was originally spruiked for the vacant northern suburbs seat of King, which has been transformed from a Labor stronghold (formerly Napier) into the party’s most marginal seat, on a nominal 1.4 per cent.

However, King has no incumbent whereas Labor sources believe the Liberal MP for Adelaide Rachel Sanderson has in fact worked assiduously to fortify the seat, which takes in the city and surrounding suburbs, including the likes of Walkerville and Medindie.

Nonetheless, Chapley’s well-resourced 2014 campaign left Marshall with a margin of just 3.1 per cent in his Norwood-based electorate, helped by a strong showing from the Greens.

“Jo Chapley ran an excellent campaign at the 2014 state election, shaving almost 2 per cent off of sitting member and Opposition Leader Steven Marshall,” Weatherill said.

ALP nominations for Labor-held seats close tomorrow.

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