27 January 2023

Libs unlikely to contest Wagga in March and still no sign of Labor

| Chris Roe
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Richard Moffatt

Meccanico and Pastorale owner Richard Moffatt confirmed that he will not run for the Liberal Party in March. Photo: Shri Gayathirie Rajen.

With less than two months to go until the NSW State Election in March, neither Labor nor the Liberals have named a candidate to contest the seat of Wagga Wagga.

While Labor sources have indicated that they will make an announcement next week, the local branch of the Liberal Party appears to have been dealt a blow with confirmation that the most likely contender did not get a guernsey this time around.

In December, it was announced that they would field a candidate and branch president Rob Sinclair confirmed that pre-selection nomination had opened, amid rumours that a well-known ‘local businessman’ had put up his hand.

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On Friday, Meccanico and Pastorale owner and Wagga branch vice president, Richard Moffatt, announced on social media that he would not be running.

“Unfortunately due to a number of different circumstances, this wasn’t meant to be and I subsequently will not be a candidate this time round,” he wrote in a detailed Facebook post outlining his investment in the party and community.

“When you work hard with passion and commitment towards a goal and then fall short, it is disappointing to say the least.

“That is certainly how I am feeling. However, I am here for the long haul, and I will continue advocating for Wagga Wagga.”

While NSW Liberal Party representatives declined to comment, local sources have expressed their disappointment and concerns that no candidate will be found in time to contest the traditionally Liberal-voting seat before the Mach 25 poll.

Wes Fang and Andrianna Benjamin

Wes Fang MLC and candidate for the State seat of Wagga Wagga, Andrianna Benjamin. Photo: Supplied.

According to Nationals MLC Wes Fang, this is a good outcome for both the Coalition and the Liberal Party, enabling them to concentrate resources in metropolitan seats.

“The fact that they have rejected a candidate is not a reflection on Richard, but a reflection on the seriousness with which they understand the Liberal Party brand has been damaged by the actions of the former member,” he said, evoking the ghost of disgraced former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

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The Nationals announced former Snowy Valleys councillor Adrianna Benjamin as their candidate in December and Mr Fang was highly critical when the Liberals opened for nominations just days later.

“The Nationals should be the party to represent rural and regional communities in any coalition between the Liberals and Nationals and I think that that has been endorsed by what has occurred today,” he said.

With the Libs now unlikely to stand a candidate and Labor laying low, it remains a three-horse race for Wagga with only Ms Benjamin and local Greens veteran Ray Goodlass joining the running against Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr.

MP Dr Joe McGirr at desk

Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr will contest the 2023 NSW State election. Photo: Chris Roe.

Despite declaring his political ambitions were on hold for the time being, Richard Moffatt closed by wishing the contenders well.

“I wish our current Liberal government well in the upcoming State Election,” he wrote.

“As a supporter of our coalition government, I wish the Nationals candidate success and likewise our current independent member.

“Anyone who puts their hand up for office deserves thanks and support.”

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