Greens candidate Ray Goodlass has secured top spot on the ticket for the seat of Wagga Wagga at the ballot draw ahead of a surprise last-minute addition to the race.
Following the preselection of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Chris Smith last week, the name Raymond Gentles appeared just before the draw representing the Public Education Party.
Mr Gentles managed to claim second place ahead of Mr Smith in third, followed by Liberals’ Julia Ham, Labor’s Keryn Foley, the current independent member Dr Joe McGirr and National’s Andrianna Benjamin rounding out the list of seven.
“You would hope that people won’t be influenced by where a candidate is on the ticket and that they will use common sense and logic and what the candidate is standing for to help them decide where to place the vote,” said Mr Goodlass.
“But we know from all the data that researchers have found that being top of the ticket does, in fact, have some sort of influence.
“It’s unfortunate, but I guess it’s a good turnout for the Greens.”
Candidates higher on the list tend to benefit from ‘donkey’ votes when punters number a ballot from top to bottom rather than in order of preference.
It may ultimately be a double bonus for the Greens if the second-on-the-ballot Public Education Party decides to trade preferences.
“We are preferencing them,” said Mr Goodlass, explaining that the relatively unknown party’s focus on public education aligned with the Greens’ values.
While the mysterious Mr Gentles was unavailable on Thursday, Region spoke to the convener of the party, Cheryl McBride, who assured us that we would meet their candidate soon.
“He’s a long-term school principal and works in a number of regional schools as a leader of principals and a mentor, and for many years he worked on the executive of the NSW Primary Principals Association. Lovely man,” she said.
Mr Gentles resides in the Wollongong area, but Ms McBride said he is passionate about the Public Education Party movement.
“This is the first time the party has been registered in New South Wales,” she said.
“Our executive is made up of a group of educators and parents who’ve been involved in public education for many years, and in various domains we’ve been advocates for public education.
“We need a voice, we need a champion and our kids need a champion to stand where we once stood.”
The party is standing 10 candidates across NSW and while their agenda of supporting public ahead of private schools does align closely with the Greens, Ms McBride says they are yet to determine where their preferences would go.
“We’re still in the argy-bargy stage,” she laughed.
“We’ve been in contact with the Greens, we’ve been in contact with Labor, and certainly their educational policies are far more attractive to us than any of the other parties.”
The current member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, welcomed the ballot draw and the expanded field, saying it was another step closer to the March 25 poll.
“One of the key features of having an Independent is that you get a lot of interest in the seat, and that’s what we’ve got,” he said.
“I think that means, in the long run, more competition means that people are paying attention to the community, which is the most important thing.
“I’m the only Independent standing, so everyone else represents a party.”
Dr McGirr said he’s looking forward to Friday’s candidates’ forum where five of the seven will debate local issues.
“I think it’ll be a good opportunity for the candidates to really show themselves to the community,” he said.
The forum is presented by Committee 4 Wagga, the Streaming Guys and Region Riverina and kicks off at the RSL Club on Friday at 5:30 pm.
It will also be live-streamed through Region Riverina’s Facebook page here.
The independent member for Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, Nationals’ Andrianna Benjamin, Labor’s Keryn Foley, the Greens’ Ray Goodlass and Liberal Party candidate Julia Ham will all take part.
Newly declared Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate Chris Smith and Public Education Party candidate Raymond Gentles are unavailable for the event.