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Ex-MP's disappointment as Labor goes low-key in crucial seat

Politics

Labor is keeping its presumptive candidate for the state’s most marginal electorate under wraps, after a high-profile prospect declined to nominate.

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Tea Tree Gully deputy mayor Lucas Jones – who has been acting mayor during the council’s recent and ongoing stoush with embattled mayor Kevin Knight – had been widely expected to nominate for the north-eastern suburbs seat of Newland, won from Labor by Liberal whip Richard Harvey in 2018.

But while the Liberals will go into next year’s election defending a nominal margin in Newland of just 0.2 per cent, Labor has opted for a lower-profile candidate – whose identity is being kept under wraps until their nomination is ratified by their public sector employer.

InDaily has been told there was only one nomination for the seat, a male emergency services worker who is finalising his eligibility requirements before his nomination can be confirmed.

Newland’s former Labor MP Tom Kenyon – for whom Jones previously worked – told InDaily he was disappointed Jones had decided not to nominate.

“I would like to have seen Lucas as the candidate,” he said.

While some in the party had previously expressed reservations about Jones because of historical code of conduct violations on council – which dated back several years and which were covered at the time by the local Messenger – Kenyon suggested Jones’s candidacy might have been too high profile in a seat in which Labor may seek to bolster an independent candidacy.

Former Labor MP turned independent Frances Bedford is considering running in Newland instead of her current Florey electorate after a boundary redistribution shifted much of her seat into its boundaries.

To snare the seat though, Bedford would likely need to finish second in a three-cornered contest, and garner significant preferences from the third-placed candidate.

One Labor source told InDaily: “Lucas has been around long enough to sniff the breeze and know whether he’d get the support.”

“It’s about looking at the field and seeing what the chances are of winning,” they said.

But Kenyon suggested Jones may have been dissuaded because the party was “worried about Frances”.

“In some ways that’s the only conclusion you can draw,” he said.

“Maybe [Jones] was too strong, and they needed that flexibility in terms of if they need to make adjustments to deal with a possible Frances candidacy – but I’m really not privy to their thinking on it.”

Bedford has been leafleting in Newland and attending events in the electorate, including at the Tea Tree Gully Football Club last night.

“We put our ‘products guide’ out to the wider electorate – both the old one and the wider one,” she said.

“It’s a good little publication.”

She said she was “not inflicting myself on anyone”.

“People invite me to stuff – I go to stuff all over Adelaide, I’m going to things all over both electorates,” she said.

“That’s not new.”

Bedford suggested she believes her chances of re-election were stronger in Florey, but said: “Having declared I’ll run, I need to work out where the best place to run is – not just to win, but to affect some change for people, the possibility of a change for the better.”

“It’s not about just winning, it’s about trying to work out how I can best help the north-east.”

She conceded her most high-profile local issue was the Modbury Hospital, which is now in Newland, adding: “The Liberal Party’s claiming credit for the money I got before the last election.”

Several party insiders today were unaware that Jones had not nominated for the seat and expressed surprise at his decision.

Jones declined to comment when contacted by InDaily.

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