McGowan, 65, announced today she would not contest her northeast Victorian seat of Indi at this year’s federal election.
“It’s time to pass on the baton. Helen Haines is an excellent candidate and is ready to go,” McGowan told reporters in Wodonga.
About 200 of McGowan’s supporters from the Voices 4 Indi group on Saturday decided Haines would run as an independent in the place of McGowan when she decided to retire.
“The timing is right now because the right person has put their hand up, with confidence and conviction,” McGowan said.
“She’s been supported by the community and the community have said ‘we’re ready for the changeover’.”
McGowan first won Indi in 2013, defeating long-serving Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella with a strong grassroots campaign.
Haines, who is also a nurse and a midwife, said she wanted to give back to the community she has lived in for more than 30 years.
“We need intelligent women. We need rural women. We need people from the communities to speak up and say ‘Canberra, we want better than what we’re seeing’,” Haines said.
The Liberal Party has preselected project manager Steve Martin, while former Wodonga councillor Eric Kerr will run for Labor.
Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie has hinted at contesting the seat, moving her office from Bendigo to Wodonga and refusing to rule out a potential switch to the lower house.
“We know the main political parties are going to throw everything at Indi. I say bring it on,” McGowan said.
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