News National Fiona Kotvojs named Liberal nominee for Eden-Monaro by-election already marred in controversy
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Fiona Kotvojs named Liberal nominee for Eden-Monaro by-election already marred in controversy

Fiona Kotvojs contested the seat for the Liberal Party at the 2019 Federal Election. Photo: ABC
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Fiona Kotvojs will become the Liberal Party’s candidate for the upcoming by-election in Eden Monaro after winning a vote Saturday evening.

The beef farmer from Dignams Creek on the NSW South Coast beat out local councillor Mark Schweikert by a comfortable margin.

Dr Kotvojs, who was narrowly defeated at the 2019 Federal Election, is expected to be formally endorsed by the party overnight Saturday.

Labor’s Mike Kelly held the seat on a 0.9 per cent margin but resigned in May for health reasons, sparking the by-election.

The seat gained national attention after state cabinet colleagues Andrew Constance and John Barilaro came to loggerheads after both pulled out of the race for Eden Monaro.

Mr Constance, the NSW Transport Minister, abandoned his bid less than 24 hours after preselection after a newspaper quoted Mr Barilaro, the Deputy Premier, using vulgar language to describe him to colleagues.

Labor has endorsed Bega Mayor Kristy McBain as their candidate.

Constance and Barilaro bow out of the running

Mr Constance, whose state electorate of Bega overlaps the federal division of Eden-Monaro, was seen as a strong candidate.

He has held his seat of Bega for 17 years but rose to national prominence last summer for his regular public appearances during the bushfire crisis.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro confirmed he would not contest the by-election for the Nationals, paving the way for Mr Constance.

But Mr Constance abandoned his bid, initially pointing to unfinished business with bushfire recovery and transport as his reasons.

The Deputy Premier was also quoted using vulgar language to describe Coalition colleague Mr Constance for entering the race.

When prodded about his reasons behind the withdrawal, Mr Constance said he “hadn’t signed up to, you know, contest federally to be called that type of smear”.

Mr Barilaro maintained he would not run for the seat, despite Mr Constance’s change of heart.

Andrew Constance and John Barilaro have been at loggerheads over the seat of Eden-Monaro. Photo: AAP

The Deputy Premier faced a second leak after a series of damaging text messages from Mr Barilaro to the party’s federal leader Michael McCormack became public.

“Don’t hide behind the ‘members will choose the candidate’ rubbish, as you were the only one saying such lines,” Mr Barilaro wrote.

“Don’t you think my branches would have backed me in?

“To feel threatened by me clearly shows you have failed your team and failed as a leader.

“You will never be acknowledged by me as our leader. You aren’t. You never will be.

“The Nats had a chance to create history, to change momentum, and you had a candidate that was prepared to risk everything to make it happen.

“What did you risk? Nothing. Hope you are proud of yourself.”

The following week, a senior member of the NSW Nationals called for leader John Barilaro to quit after a series of leaks showing his fury about standing for the seat of Eden-Monaro left his party “embarrassed”.

NSW Deputy Speaker Leslie Williams said she was left feeling “frustrated” and “disappointed” by Mr Barilaro after his spat with Liberal MP Andrew Constance last week.

Mr Barilaro has said he would not contest the 2023 state election and Ms Williams called on him to indicate his intentions “in either vacating the leadership or providing a timeline as to when that will happen”.

Labor has endorsed Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain as its candidate.

Ms McBain is expected to receive strong support from Labor powerbrokers. Photo: ABC South East NSW: Claire Wheaton

-ABC