News National A farmer and a local mayor: Meet the candidates vying for the seat of Eden-Monaro

A farmer and a local mayor: Meet the candidates vying for the seat of Eden-Monaro

Labor's Kristy McBain won over the Liberal Party's Fiona Kotvojs. Photo: TND/AAP
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It’s official.

Beef farmer Fiona Kotvojs is competing against Bega Mayor Kristy McBain for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro after winning preselection on Saturday night.

Whoever wins will make history as the first woman to hold the seat, which was vacated by Labor MP Mike Kelly.

He retired in May for health reasons.

State cabinet colleagues Andrew Constance and John Barilaro were initially tipped to be frontrunners in the race, until both suddenly pulled out of the race over a public spat.

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.

But aside from the recent controversy, Eden-Monaro was already well known among political pundits.

For 44 years, up until Mr Kelly’s victory in 2016, Eden-Monaro was long regarded as Australia’s best-known bellwether seat because whichever party won it ended up winning government of the day.

A date hasn’t been set for the by-election but it is expected in late June or early July.

Who is Fiona Kotvojs?

Fiona Kotvojs is a former teacher, scientist, beef farmer and small businesswoman.

Passionate about sustainability and agriculture, Dr Kotvojs lives on a virtually self-sufficient family farm at Dignams Creek, where she raises cattle and grows truffles.

The by-election will be her second shot at federal politics after narrowly losing to Labor’s Mike Kelly in last year’s federal election.

With an extensive resume under her belt, she has a strong chance of succeeding this time round.

Dr Kotvojs is a Rural Fire Service volunteer, board member of Oxfam Australia, and has more than 30 years’ experience in the international development sector.

She has helped design and manage several Australian foreign aid programs in Asia-Pacific nations across a range of sectors, including education, economic governance, and law and justice.

Fiona Kotvojs and Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a visit to Robyn Rowe Chocolates in Murrumbateman near Canberra on Sunday. Photo: AAP

Among Dr Kotvojs’s top priorities for the electorate will be rebuilding communities after the recent bushfires and bringing more jobs into the region.

She has also spoken up about investing in major infrastructure like highways, and has long argued that freight for Snowy 2.0 should come through Eden Port, rather than Port Kembla.

She also wants to secure funding for more men’s sheds in the region.

Who is Kristy McBain?

Kristy McBain is the mayor of Bega Valley Shire in south-east NSW.

Her predominantly rural municipality comprises towns like Cobargo, Quaama and Merimbula that were ravaged by the catastrophic bushfires over summer.

Ms McBain played a major role in guiding the far south coast through the national crisis, remaining at the fire front for days and continuing to speak for her community months afterward.

As flames ripped through towns in the shire and left many people homeless, she organised several emergency meetings and promptly relayed critical information to her constituents.

The experience propelled her into the national spotlight and ultimately sealed her decision to run for federal Parliament.

Kristy McBain and her family. Photo: Facebook

Ms McBain has been vocal about her disappointment in the federal government’s handling of the bushfire crisis, pointing to a lack of clear leadership and direction.

It is through this framework that she will fight for the seat of Eden-Monaro.

Though she has not been elected to a position higher than the Bega Valley Council chambers, Ms McBain was reportedly all ears when Labor leader Anthony Albanese called to gauge her interest in running for the seat.

The leap from mayor to a by-election grabbing national attention in a bellwether seat is an impressive feat.

But will her leadership during last year’s bushfires be enough to carry her into Parliament?