Electorate analysis: The Hunter Valley town of Cessnock lies at the centre of an electorate covering 1500 square kilometres, from the outskirts of Newcastle at Edgeworth west to Wollombi Brook. Outside of the interruption of proportional representation between 1920 and 1927, Labor won Cessnock at every election after its creation in 1913 with the exception of 1988, when sitting member Stan Neilly was defeated by Liberal candidate Bob Roberts. Neilly recovered the seat in 1991, and held it until his retirement in 1999.
The ensuing preselection saw local milk vendor and Cessnock councillor Kerry Hickey enjoy a surprise victory over Kate Brassil, a staffer to federal Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon. The state party’s Right-controlled head office subsequently initiated a process to have Hickey disqualified on the grounds that he was not a trade union member, to which Hickey retorted that he was active in the Milk Vendors Association, which had been refused affiliation by the Transport Workers Union. The move was resisted by the Left and Stan Neilly, who said he would come out of retirement and nominate again if Hickey was disqualified. Cessnock mayor Maree Callaghan also backed Hickey and threatened to run if he was denied. The situation was resolved when Brassil agreed to withdraw.
When Hickey joining the Labor exodus at the coming election, a three-way preselection battle ensued in which Port Stephens council officer Clayton Barr prevailed over councillor James Hawkins and former Transport Workers Union Newcastle sub-branch secretary Mark Crosdale. Another councillor, Bob Pynsent, was an early starter but withdrew from the race. Further councillors who are in on the action include mayor Alison Davey, who got the nod to run for the Nationals after still another councillor, Neil Gorman, was endorsed and then withdraw; James Ryan, who is running for the Greens; Dale Troy, who was elected to council as a Liberal but is running as an independent; and Allan McCudden, another independent.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.