Well, the chickens have really come home to roost about the sheer scale of this exercise. Recruiting 100 candidates and running a $200,000-plus campaign to share the balance of power in Victoria’s reconstituted Upper House is a great concept but a challenging execution.

We’re up to about 60 candidates. The vetting process is quite intense and we’re now down to the business end of deciding exactly who runs where. Especially in the more winnable upper house regions where the quota is only 16.6%.

I’ve been serially surrendering my Upper House spot as each great new prospect comes along. But it now looks like I’ll probably be running in the leafy Southern Metropolitan region, which has the highest proportion of shareholders and ABC listeners (supposedly my best two demographics). This would be a contest against Labor’s star recruit, Looksmart founder Evan Thornley, who also doesn’t yet live in the electorate.

We’re doing far better than expected on candidate recruitment. But raising cash and breaking through the media wall will be the two biggest challenges, especially now that I’ve surrendered the regular spot on 774 ABC Melbourne and also signed off from the ABC Sydney spot yesterday.

Our first campaign function in June at Gary Morgan’s Collins Street restaurant went well. We’ve rebooked the venue at mates’ rates again for 31 August and we’ll have another slate of interesting speakers (possibly even Gary himself who would make a colourful addition to the candidate team, if he was prepared to make the leap).

There’s no doubt that this exercise will be a major black hole in terms of time and money. The missus has approved a budget of $20,000 and it’s already 15 hours a week and rising – but it’s also very stimulating and a great experience. You really do meet all sorts and the whole policy debate forces you out of your intellectual comfort zone. For instance, yesterday we had a meeting with VCOSS, which is planning on rating all the social policies of the political parties. We also had a good session recently with the Australian Conservation Foundation.

On Saturday we’ve got South Australian political kingmaker Nick Xenophon coming over for a planning session and to speak at a dinner for Gabriela Byrne, the reformed pokies addict who is running in the Eastern Victoria region. The stunt king should be full of good ideas about campaigning against the pokies after scoring his remarkable 20.5% state-wide upper house vote in South Australia earlier this year.

I’ve got my first campaign fundraiser speech tonight for our candidate in Robert Doyle’s safe seat of Malvern, Deborah Holmes, who’s even gone to the trouble of advertising the night in her local paper, so we’re hoping to get a few walk-ups to the East Malvern RSL for the 6.30pm start on top of the 50 who have confirmed.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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