Electorate: Baulkham Hills
Margin: Liberal 10.5%
Region: North-Western Sydney
Outgoing member: Wayne Merton (Liberal)
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Electorate analysis: Baulkham Hills is in Sydney’s outer north-western suburbs, about 25 kilometres from the city centre. The seat has been held since its creation in 1991 by Wayne Merton, who is now retiring. Even before he announced he would do so, the rival Right faction forces of Alex Hawke and David Clarke were jockeying to have favoured candidates replace him, sowing the seeds for the most intense of the various turf wars staged between the two ahead of the coming election. Hills Shire councillor Andrew Jefferies was discussed as a possible Hawke candidate, while both NSW Family Association spokesman Damien Tudehope and another Hills councillor, Mike Thomas, were associated with the Clarke camp. An early indication of the contest’s fierceness came when Hawke’s staff called police after 40 Clarke supporters showed up at a Young Liberal branch meeting at Hawke’s office, reportedly as part of efforts to secure the preselection for Tudehope.
After Merton announced his retirement the Hawke camp threw its weight behind Civil Contractors Federation chief executive David Elliott, who had recently failed to depose Clarke from his upper house preselection. Perhaps decisively, Elliott was also supported by John Howard. Early on the day of the preselection ballot Tudehope unsuccessfully sought a Supreme Court injunction to prevent the vote from proceeding, disputing the legitimacy of the local Young Liberals meeting which chose its seven delegates to the preselection panel. He subsequently withdrew (although his name remained on the ballot, attracting three votes) and threw his support behind Thomas. Elliott ended up prevailing by 50 votes to 33.
Analysis written by William Bowe. Please direct corrections or comments to pollbludger-AT-crikey.com.au. Read William’s blog, The Poll Bludger.