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Third time lucky? Mayor "keeping an open mind" on new state politics tilt

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Port Adelaide Enfield mayor Gary Johanson says he’s “open” to throwing his hat into the ring at the March state election, but is yet to commit to a third tilt at state parliament.

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Johanson almost seized the safe Labor seat of Port Adelaide after the retirement of former Treasurer Kevin Foley prompted a by-election in 2012, with a two-candidate preferred vote of 47.1 per cent.

He ran again in the Labor seat of Lee in 2014, polling a respectable 11.2 per cent of the primary vote. But the seat, held by Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan, has been made significantly more vulnerable under last year’s boundary redistribution, now sitting on a nominal 2.6 per cent advantage for Labor.

Johanson says he “hasn’t given it a lot of thought because I’ve got a very heavy workload” and it will “probably be a last minute decision” whether or not he runs.

“I’ve got a lot of phone calls coming in, from people wanting me to run – very supportive calls,” he insisted.

“At this stage my options are open… we’ll see what might eventuate.”

He says his council area “covers around 11 state seats” and he wouldn’t speculate where – or for whom – he might run if he chooses to, although he noted that “the Kilburn/Enfield area is probably where I get the greatest support”.

“I think we’re in an important time in the history of this state, where the state can now start to go ahead,” he said.

“I’m keeping an open mind to [running]… I think the time’s right if we all work together.”

Asked if he had spoken to Nick Xenophon or anyone from the fledgling SA Best party about representing them, he said: “I’d be open to people coming to me [but] I haven’t had any sit-down meetings with anyone.”

Asked whether he had held informal discussions with Xenophon, he said: “Not specifically around this [but] I have conversations with everyone.”

Xenophon lent his support to Johanson’s campaign in 2014.

Johanson is the third mayor to openly speculate about running for state parliament for a non-major party, with Marion incumbent and former Labor, Greens and independent MP Kris Hanna still not ruling anything out.

Tea Tree Gully mayor Kevin Knight has also threatened to run in the inner-northern suburbs seat of King, as a protest against the Liberal candidacy of his council nemesis Paula Luethen.

Knight has spoken to SA Best, but he today ruled out a tilt for the seat – because he likes the new O-Bahn tunnel too much.

“I don’t think I’ll be running,” he told InDaily.

“I did rate the idea of running as a Xenophon candidate, but I’ve now been through the tunnel both ways and I think it’s the best thing to happen to the north-eastern suburbs – and Xenophon has twice said it’s a waste of money in a public forum.

“So I don’t think I’ll be running.”

He said he had previously “had a bit of a brief meeting with a couple of people” from SA Best about running in King under the Xenophon banner, but said he now believed his candidacy was “incompatible” because “I think the O-Bahn tunnel is magnificent”.

“There’s a few things I want to see through [as mayor], so I’m going to stick around and probably run again as mayor and take it from there,” he said.

Of his threats to cruel Luethen’s campaign in what is nominally Labor’s most marginal seat (1.4 per cent), he said: “If she gets elected, good luck to her… at least she’ll be gone from my council.”

Norwood, Payneham and St Peters mayor Robert Bria has been linked by senior party figures to an independent tilt at Steven Marshall’s Dunstan electorate, but ruled it out when queried by InDaily.

Xenophon, meanwhile, will tonight co-host a forum for TAFE students to vent their concerns at recent revelations about the Government-owned training provider.

His co-host will be former SA Employee Ombudsman Gary Collis – who was a Palmer United candidate at the 2013 federal election.

Collis did not return calls from InDaily today.

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