News People Uni student taking on Mike Baird

Uni student taking on Mike Baird

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On Saturday morning, New South Wales residents will hit the polling booths to select their new leader.

While Premier Mike Baird is the favourite, with an astonishing approval rating of 60 per cent, 23-year-old university student Clara Williams Roldan is working hard to challenge the most powerful person in NSW, and the most popular premier in Australia, in his own seat of Manly.

And she’s having fun doing it.

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Here, Williams Roldan shares a day in the left of a rookie politician on the campaign trail.

Saturday, March 21

When I was asked to stand for the Greens in the NSW State election, I expected a solar powered limousine, organic champagne at breakfast, and an entourage of adorable animals who had been trained to dress me. Alas, politics is not as glamorous as the media would have us believe!

My name is Clara Williams Roldan, and I am the 23-year-old running against Premier Mike Baird in this Saturday’s election. I was born and raised in Manly, learning to swim almost before I could walk, and am in my final year of Law at Sydney University.

Here is a day in my life…

On 'Sunrise' with Larry Emdur and Monique Wright.
On ‘Sunrise’ with Larry Emdur and Monique Wright.


Wake up early for my interview on Weekend Sunrise. Disaster. I have conjunctivitis. One eye is glued shut by gunk, and the terrified look on my cat’s face when I go to pet him confirms that I look horrible. I wake up my mother/designated early morning driver and she raids the medicine cabinet, coming out with eye drops. Disaster averted.


We’re running late. Thankfully, the streets of Sydney are post-apocalyptically empty this early on a Saturday morning, and we make it to the Martin Place studio by 7.15.

My campaign media manager Will – thankfully it’s the weekend so he doesn’t have to be selling car ads (his day job) – meets us at the studio. I am sent to the make up chair for a ‘spruce’. My dress doesn’t have anywhere to clip the microphone battery, so I am unceremoniously unzipped, and it is clipped to my bra strap.

The interview seems to go by in a flash, like time on TV is somehow accelerated.

Clara with Mike Baird.
Clara with Mike Baird.


We walk out of the studio and see Larry Emdur accidentally call me Kate in his recap. We head home.


Time to give my 15 year-old cat his medicine. He was diagnosed as terminal several months ago and given only days to live. However, he remains so sprightly, I suspect he paid the vet to falsify his medical records.


I head to prepoll to hand out How-To-Vote leaflets. I sit with the volunteers from Labor and the Liberals and we all chat about the difficulties of keeping our corflutes from flying away in the ever-increasing wind.

By the way, if this is the first time you have ever heard the word corflute you are in good company. Google tells me it just means ribbed lightweight plastic – the stuff we use for how to vote boards on which we stick a new face each election. I hear (NSW Attorney General) Brad Hazzard once cut his hand open rescuing one from the middle of the road.

Clara with her cat, Strippy.
Clara with her cat, Strippy.

When voters approach, we pause our amiable conversation, and assume stances that seem more in step with our political difference. Once the voters have gone into the booths, the Liberal volunteer offers me a “Mike Baird” hat, concerned that I might get burnt in the hot sun. I decline, but accept his next offer of sunscreen.


I am home from prepoll, and need to respond to the numerous emails and facebook messages that have rolled in during the day. Several complain about receiving Greens material in their letter boxes, another phones me to tell me she thinks I am lying on my candidate leaflet, that no 23-year-old could have that kind of experience.

But, for nearly every complaint, there is a positive comment. I have an email from 8am, right after my Sunrise appearance. A teenager called Kayla tells me she “had to stop eating my breakfast I was so captivated by what you were doing”. This email alone would make running in this election worthwhile.

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I drop my younger sister at her friend’s birthday party, then go home to listen to a lecture on property law that I missed earlier in the week due to campaign commitments. I fall asleep about 20 minutes into the 2 hour recording. Mum wakes me up about an hour later, when she comes to see why I haven’t come to the table for dinner.


Give the cat his nightly medicine. Hop into bed, check my Facebook page one last time; 600 likes! I set my alarm and turn my phone on silent.

I start my reading for Monday’s tutorial on Theories of the State, but am asleep before I reach the end of the first paragraph.

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