The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party is believed to be courting Griffith’s Helen Dalton to stand as its candidate in the NSW Murray by-election.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed it would be held on October 14, the same day at the Cootamundra by-election to replace Katrina Hodgkinson.
Nominations will open on September 25, leaving little time for campaigning.
A Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate won the seat of Orange from The Nationals last year, and the party has confirmed it will enter a candidate into the race for Murray.
Mrs Dalton is believed to be their top choice, but she declined to comment on the possibility when contacted by the Southern Riverina News this week.
It was previously speculated Mrs Dalton could be an independent candidate, and she said she would make a public announcement regarding her intentions tomorrow.
Mrs Dalton ran against Mr Piccoli at the 2015 election. Despite gaining the second highest number of first preference votes of any candidate — 6517 — Mrs Dalton was not able to give adequate chase to Mr Piccoli who polled 20,158 first preference votes, or 55.69 per cent.
She also attempted to seek The Nationals pre-selection in his place in 2014.
Mrs Dalton said whatever her choice, she believes the people of Murray want change.
‘‘The Nationals have let rural-regional Australia down and I think that’s why there has been a swing towards to the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party,’’ she said.
‘‘We have three issues — health, education and water — and the Nationals have been totally absent with water and not representing the region at all, even though it is what links the whole Murray electorate.
‘‘The Deni, Griffith and Barham hospitals are also in a bad way and people have had enough.’’
Whoever it gets as its candidate, predictions are the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers will shake up the safe Coalition seat.
A survey of over 1000 people conducted by Griffith-based newspaper The Area News found more than 81 per cent of people would vote for a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate in Murray, while only 12 per cent said they would vote for a The Nationals candidate.
Two of the district’s community leaders have indicated they will seek pre-selection as a The Nationals candidates in the by-election — former Murrumbidgee Shire mayor and soon to-be-elected Murrumbidgee Council councillor Austin Evans and Deniliquin The Nationals branch chair David Landini.
Deniliquin branch vice chair Perin Davey still will not confirm speculation she will also seek pre-selection for the party.
Griffith’s Brian Mills has informed he will stand as an independent.
Early voting is expected to open on October 2.