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New twist in Liberal succession as MP 'rethinks' exit

Politics

The race to find a candidate for one of the SA Liberals’ fortress seats could take a new twist, with the retiring incumbent believed to be open to reconsider his decision to quit parliament.

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First-term MP Dan Cregan shocked colleagues last month by announcing he would not seek a second term in the Adelaide Hills stronghold of Kavel, which was once held by former Premier John Olsen.

At the time, the former Senior Associate at major law firm Allens Linklaters said “the law has been a significant part of my life and I’ve received offers to return to practice which I’m giving some thought to”.

The seat, held by the Liberals on a nominal 14.5 per cent margin, is set to attract significant interest, with Mayo Federal Electorate Committee president Rowan Mumford expected to be the Right faction’s preferred candidate.

However, several sources have told InDaily Cregan has undertaken to reconsider his decision to leave, after high-level conversations in recent days with senior party figures.

Cregan declined to comment today but one insider said a potential backflip is “always on the cards”, suggesting the party was keen to offset a divisive preselection campaign.

“The more they push and annoy him, he’s probably got a stubborn streak so the more potential there is for that to happen,” one source said.

“I’d never say never – if he’s aggravated enough… he’s liable to say ‘I’m going to stick around’.”

Premier Steven Marshall did not comment to InDaily today but has previously expressed disappointment in Cregan’s decision to quit, saying: “I wish Dan well with his future endeavours and thank him again for his contribution to the Government, the Liberal Party and, of course, to the people of Kavel.”

The succession question in Kavel is a thorny one for the Liberals, with Mumford cited in anonymous letters recently tabled in parliament by Cregan complaining about the recruitment of “hard-right Pentecostal Christians into the party”.

Some in the party have also expressed reservations that Mumford’s candidacy could prompt a backlash from local Mayo independent Rebekha Sharkie, after he authored a letter opposing a recent push to recruit the Centre Alliance MP back into the Liberal fold.

The letter, published by News Corp, insisted Sharkie “does not share our values and has campaigned hard against our party over the last five years”, saying such a move would be “inappropriate and will not be accepted”.

Sharkie, however, told InDaily: “I’d be very happy to sit and have a conversation with him but I’ve got nothing personally against Rowan Mumford.”

“He wrote a letter I think was offensive but I’ve got broad enough shoulders… I’ve never met the gentleman,” she said.

However, she said her hope is that Cregan “might reconsider” his resignation.

“I hope Dan can recharge his batteries and run again,” she said.

Several other names have been linked to the seat, with Mount Barker councillor Bradley Orr confirming he intended to nominate for preselection and former Legislative Council hopeful Tim Richardson also linked to the seat.

Rumours have also been rife in party circles linking outspoken Right-faction senator Alex Antic to a shock run for state preselection, however Antic has told close colleagues he was “absolutely not” countenancing such a move, with sources calling the scuttlebutt “just the Left fear-mongering”.

Asked about the suggestions, Antic told InDaily via text message:“InDaily has a track record of printing fake news so hearing this unsubstantiated rumour from InDaily is of little surprise to me as it is nothing more than further fake news”.

The Liberal Party has not yet opened Kavel for preselection nominations, and Cregan has already been endorsed as the party’s candidate for the seat, which likely means he would not have to face another ballot if he did change his mind.

It would not be the first time such a move has occurred, with Flinders MP Peter Treloar being talked out of retirement in 2012 after announcing his departure.

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