THE NSW Nationals Party has been dealt another blow in its fight to hold seats in the 2019 state election after the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party announced popular Upper Hunter Shire councillor Lee Watts as its candidate against Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen.
Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Brown said Ms Watts was “the strong voice the electorate deserves”, in a statement on Monday.
The seat, held by Mr Johnsen since the March, 2015 election, is the National Party’s most marginal NSW electorate after a strong showing by Country Labor candidate and Muswellbrook mayor Martin Rush in 2015.
The seat dropped from safe Nationals under former MP George Souris with a margin of 23 per cent to 2.2 per cent when Mr Johnsen was elected in 2015.
Mr Brown said Ms Watts had a proven track record as mayor, deputy mayor and councillor with Upper Hunter Shire Council.
“The Upper Hunter was the most marginal electorate for the Nationals at the last electorate, but it’s the one that has been most neglected by them,” Mr Brown said.
“That’s why the Upper Hunter deserves a strong representative like Lee Watts who will actually deliver for them.”
Ms Watts launched her campaign by putting both major parties on notice.
“The Nationals have failed the Upper Hunter,” Ms Watts said.
“They’ve failed to fix our roads, they failed to fight for drought relief funding, and they’ve failed to stand up to the city Liberals.
“Despite having the natural resources and power stations that fuel the rest of New South Wales we have several bypasses that have been ignored for decades, and more money is being spent on building Sydney stadiums than helping our struggling farmers.”
Ms Watts said the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party could use the balance of power to deliver for the Hunter region.