Mitcham councillor Adriana Christopoulos is believed to be one of four nominees for Liberal preselection in the southern suburbs seat, where the party is seeking a candidate to take on its former member.
Duluk has been exiled from the party since he was charged last year with basic assault against SA Best MLC Connie Bonaros.
He was acquitted in August, but opted to run as an independent in Waite after a string of other claims were aired against him and others under parliamentary privilege by Greens MLC Tammy Franks, one of the organisers of the 2019 event.
Of the four nominees understood to have nominated for preselection by yesterday’s deadline, three have been linked with a new Brownhill Creek branch within Waite widely seen as a bid by the party’s moderate faction to establish a hub within the electorate.
Those are Christopoulos, nominal centre-Right candidate Melissa Jones and former party vice-president Cara Miller, who previously owned medical business Sound Radiology, which was bought out and rebadged last year after going into voluntary administration.
The Right has only one hopeful – high-profile city councillor Alexander Hyde, a staffer to outgoing Boothby MP Nicolle Flint and a former confidant of Duluk’s.
Current Naval executive and former Liberal staffer and first-class cricketer Cullen Bailey was mooted to run but did not nominate, saying it was “not the right timing for me and my family”, while fellow conservative Leah Blyth also opted not to contest the ballot.
But Hyde’s candidacy is significant as it suggests the faction, which has been bullish about Duluk’s chances as an independent, has instead resolved to work to retain the seat in Liberal hands.
However, insiders have also speculated that Duluk’s chances would be bolstered if he faced a male Liberal candidate instead of a woman, arguing Hyde would also be less inclined to run a negative campaign against the incumbent.
Duluk told InDaily he would not be commenting on the Liberal preselection.
The party will not confirm the names of the nominees until they have fronted its candidate review committee this week, with some in the party arguing Christopoulos will be hard-pressed to justify her candidacy given she previously represented the Labor Party in 2010, running in Fisher – then held by independent Bob Such.
She also publicly declared her attempt to run for SA-Best at the last election in 2018, telling The Advertiser in March of that year that she had approached Xenophon with a plan to take on ALP stalwart Tom Koutsantonis in his West Torrens stronghold, but was told she should instead consider running in Liberal-held Adelaide or Unley, which neighbours Waite.
A report at the time said she “rejected that offer as she had no strong connection to the Liberal seats, but deep networks in West Torrens where her Greek heritage would appeal to migrant families of Mediterranean background”.
“What I interpreted was that they (SA-Best) were being a combination of strategic but also probably not wanting to run in a Labor seat… because every other alternative they gave me was a Liberal seat,” Christopoulos told the paper at the time.
“So, my decision was to not run at all and distance myself from the whole lot. They want to hold the balance of power but didn’t seem to be interested in change.”
She told News Corp in 2018 she had quit Labor after a decade as a member following a “horrible” experience while running as a candidate.
Christopoulos today wouldn’t confirm her nomination for Waite, telling InDaily: “I’m not going to provide any comment on this.”
However, she has previously flagged her interest, saying in June that: “I’m an elected member, I live in that electorate [so] we’ll see what happens in the next month or so.”
Christopoulos was previously a West Torrens councillor for eight years and in June was appointed by Premier Steven Marshall as the new chair of the SA Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission.
Asked today whether she was concerned her previous involvement with Labor and SA Best would count against her Liberal candidacy, she said: “No, not at all.”
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