FORMER Tamworth independent Peter Draper has refused to rule out a tilt at the state seat at next year’s poll.
Mr Draper, who held the seat for eight years before being ousted by the Nationals’ Kevin Anderson in 2011, said while it was unlikely he would run again, “you never close the door”.
It comes amid growing speculation about who may challenge Mr Anderson from inside and outside his own party at the March 2015 election.
The Nationals’ pre-selection process for Tamworth opened on Friday and Mr Anderson will tonight seek branch nomination at the party’s monthly meeting.
But it’s the intentions of Mr Draper that has tongues wagging after the politician-turned-driving-instructor made a number of critical public comments of the state government in recent weeks.
“You never close the door, but at the moment I’m enjoying what I’m doing,” Mr Draper said.
“I don’t go a day without people asking me to stand again.
“My health is good, my attitude is good but I’m enjoying spending time with my family too much.
“I will say there’s a great disappointment with the lack of delivery from the current member, though.”
Former Tamworth mayor James Treloar, one of four to contest a Nationals’ community pre-selection before the last election, has ruled out running again, and councillors Russell Webb and Mark Rodda, who both contested the community pre-selection, are not expected to run.
Mr Anderson told The Leader he was unfazed about potential political rivals, preferring to “keep my head down, my bum up and keep working for the electorate”.
Nationals Tamworth electoral council chairman Bede Burke said party pre-selections were healthy for democracy.
“Just because you’re an incumbent doesn’t give you a right to the next electoral cycle,” Mr Burke said.
“Kevin, like all new members, may have struggled a bit early on because he didn’t have an office and his staff weren’t settled, but he’s really grown into the role. He’s very affable and always says g’day to people and the rank-and-file love him.
“He’s getting access to other parliamentarians very easily, access we weren’t able to get with the previous member.”
If Mr Anderson is challenged for pre-selection, the electorate’s 360 Nationals members will be forced to vote for their choice at a meeting on March 29.
Pre-selection closes on February 28.