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Xenophon coy on mayor's Port bid


Port Adelaide mayor Gary Johanson is firming as a prospective SA Best candidate in Education Minister Susan Close’s seat, with Nick Xenophon declaring it “too early to say” whether the serial independent challenger would carry the flag for his fledgling party at the March state election.

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The two-time independent candidate, who has previously run in Port Adelaide and Lee, says he’s been courted by “everyone but the Greens” since declaring himself open to stand again, and has not ruled out joining forces with the potential kingmaker and his fledgling party.

But major party insiders are convinced he will run for SA Best, with speculation he is holding off on an announcement until after the Tour Down Under kicks off at the Port next week.

Asked if he had spoken to Johanson about running as a candidate, Xenophon told InDaily the long-time mayor was “someone I speak to about local issues on a regular basis”.

“I speak to him about a range of issues – that’s all I’m going to say,” he said.

“He’s obviously passionately concerned about his local community.”

Asked whether Johanson would be a candidate for SA Best in Port Adelaide, Xenophon said: “Who knows what will happen… it’s too early to say.”

For his part, Johanson insists he’s an in-demand prospect, noting “I’ve had every party but the Greens ring me” with offers – albeit not necessarily offers involving a parliamentary tilt.

“There are many things besides positions in parliament,” he said.

“They’re fairly prominent things [but] I’d rather not be too specific… the phone has been ringing [and] everything at this stage is still very negotiable.”

He said some approaches had been informal, but represented “every party but the Greens, in one way or another… either directly or through friends of the parties”.

“The Right side [faction] of one party is very keen on me [so] anything could be possible in the next week or so,” he said mysteriously.

“Or I could still be mayor, you never know.”

Gary Johanson says he’s being courted by both left and right.

He said he was “not going to go any further [about] those sort of discussions because they’re very private and I was very honoured to have such discussions”.

He emphasised that he was looking forward to welcoming the high profile bike race to Port Adelaide, saying “this will be the start” of the suburb’s rejuvenation.

Johanson almost seized the safe Labor seat 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 Labor-held Lee in 2014, polling 11.2 per cent, but Xenophon has already announced Andy Legrand as his candidate in Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan’s seat.

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