The candidates for Rob Stokes’ seat of Pittwater are circling after the State Liberal MP and current government minister announced his impending retirement from politics yesterday, 30 September.
Minister Stokes announced he would not re-contest the seat he has held for 15 years at the 2023 NSW election, leaving the job open for the taking by a Liberal successor or surprise non-Liberal contender.
Two current members of the Liberal party, MLC and and Family and communities and Disability services minister, Natasha MacLaren-Jones, and current Northern Beaches councillor, Rory Amon, have both announced they will seek pre-selection for the seat.
Minister Maclaren-Jones was quick to declare her intention to move from the NSW upper house to try her hand in the bear pit of the NSW lower house, issuing her statement within an hour of Minister Stokes’.
“Pittwater has always been very special to me having been a part of this wonderfully diverse community,” she said.
“It is from my love for Pittwater and my commitment to continuing to serve our community that today I announce I will be putting myself forward and nominating for Liberal Party Pre-Selection to represent Pittwater.”
Treasurer Matt Kean supported her candidacy.
Cr Amon, who proved very popular in the recent local government elections despite jumping from Narrabeen to the Pittwater ward, wasn’t far behind her in declaring his intention to take on the state seat.
“Since Rob’s announcement, I have been inundated with supportive messages from many of you locally, and others across the Party, encouraging me to nominate for preselection to be the Liberal candidate for Pittwater,” he said.
“I love Pittwater. It has been one of the greatest honours to serve you as a Councillor for Pittwater for over half a decade. Fighting to improve our community is my passion. We landed a blow against the Independents with a decisive swing to the Liberal Party in Pittwater Ward at the December 2021 local government election and I am eager to continue making a contribution.
“I confirm that I am nominating for Liberal preselection for Pittwater. Over the coming weeks, I look forward to speaking with members and our community about our fight for Pittwater.”
The Northern Beaches state seats of Manly, Wakehurst and Pittwater are all currently held by Liberals, but the rising tide of independents are at their heels.
Independent Pittwater campaign spokesperson, Rebecca Clarke, said Mr Stokes’ retirement indicates that the time had come to “change the face of local politics.”
“While Minister Stokes was popular, the Liberal National Coalition he is a part of no longer enjoys the same popular support. The NSW Government has been rocked by integrity scandals and is out of touch with the real concerns of the Pittwater community,” Ms Clarke said.
“We have seen the federal electorate of Mackellar, that includes Pittwater, choose an independent in Sophie Scamps, so we know there is an appetite for a different kind of candidate amongst local voters.
“People are tired of party political politics and are waking up to the power and integrity that comes with having an independent local voice in government. Our community deserves a local member who can genuinely put our community above party politics on all issues.”
Manly Observer contacted Mr Stokes’ office for comment on whether the independent threat was a factor in his decision to retire, given he was gunning for Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s job not long ago, however a spokesman denied this was the case and that no polling had been conducted which indicated support for the Liberals had dropped in favour of independents in the electorate.
Meanwhile, the Independent Pittwater campaign is seeking nominations for a candidate to stand in Pittwater in the NSW State Election in March 2023 and are asking for expressions of interest before October 25 2022.
In fact, similar teal movements have kicked off across the Northern Beaches three state electorates of Manly, Wakehurst and Pittwater.