New South Wales politics has been anything but boring in recent times, and there are some unusual and complicated factors at play in the 2015 election campaign, too.
ABC State political reporter Sarah Gerathy takes a look at some of the key things to watch ahead of the March 28 vote.
1. The first test for new leaders
Freshly anointed Opposition Leader Luke Foley has just two months under his belt in the top job.
After replacing John Robertson as the state Labor Party leader early in the new year, Mr Foley will have to work hard to ensure voters know who he is and what he stands for.
The hopeful: Luke Foley
He also faces the additional challenge of having to secure a spot in the Lower House after sitting in the Upper House since 2010.
He is running for the relatively safe Labor electorate of Auburn, after incumbent MP Barbara Perry agreed not to recontest the seat, but is yet to prove himself on the hustings.
Mr Foley is also facing off against a Premier who is a seasoned campaigner and riding high in the opinion polls.
Mike Baird’s personal approving ratings have been consistently impressive since he became Premier in April last year.
The Leader: Mike Baird
This election is his first true test with voters as leader.
Since taking over from former premier Barry O’Farrell, Mr Baird has been widely seen as reinvigorating the government and giving it a stronger sense of direction and momentum.
Labor will be trying to use his former job as Treasurer to haunt him, by drawing voters’ attention to the deep budget cuts in health and education that he oversaw.
The Opposition is also keen to employ some of the election tactics of their Victorian colleagues – drawing parallels between Mr Baird and his more unpopular federal Liberal colleagues.
2. The ‘poles and wires’ privatisation plan
Mr Baird has staked his political fortune on the sale of 49 per cent of the remaining state-owned electricity assets – the “poles and wires”.
Declaring it an issue he is prepared to lose his job over, the Premier has said the long-term lease of the network would raise proceeds to pay for about $20 billion worth of infrastructure.
His promises include bringing forward the construction of a second Sydney Harbour rail crossing and rapid transit line, a Western Harbour tunnel for cars and several billion dollars for schools and hospitals.
Labor, on the other hand, has proposed a more modest $10 billion infrastructure package, and says it can fund its promises without selling off the network.
According to the ABC’s Vote Compass survey, the issue of asset sales is the second most important issue to NSW voters after the economy.
Polls have consistently shown strong opposition to electricity privatisation among voters, and Labor will be working to capitalise on that sentiment.
The strong rejection of asset sales by voters in January’s Queensland election has also buoyed Labor’s hopes.
But the Coalition will argue that Labor is condemning Sydney to a generation of congestion by not pursuing a bolder plan.
3. The Abbott factor
A wildcard factor in this election is the troubles plaguing the Liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott and how that could affect voters’ treatment of the NSW Coalition.
The rejection of two first term Liberal state governments in recent months – in Victoria and Queensland – has put some quarters of the NSW Liberal Party on edge.
Some internal party polling has suggested voters’ dislike of Mr Abbott could take a couple of points off the party’s primary vote in NSW, while other polls suggest it will have a much more minimal effect.
Mr Baird has conceded the leadership turmoil that has recently dogged the Federal Government has been a distraction from his efforts to keep voters focused on state issues.
But he has also said he believed the electorate would judge him on his own record, not Mr Abbott’s.
Meanwhile, Labor will continue to do its best to draw parallels between state and federal budget cuts and emphasise Mr Baird’s personal friendship with Mr Abbott.
Mr Abbott was largely absent from the Queensland and Victorian state election campaign trails, but Mr Baird has said he would be happy for the Prime Minister to appear alongside him on the hustings.
4. The fallout from corruption allegations
The public airing of shocking allegations against 10 Government MPs before the state’s anti-corruption watchdog last year is expected to have a direct impact on several seats.
The seats of Charlestown and Newcastle in the Hunter have already fallen to Labor in by-elections prompted by the resignations of Andrew Cornwell and Tim Owen – two MPs at the centre of some of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings.
Other Liberal MPs allegedly caught up in the scandal are not recontesting their seats, but the damage to the Liberal brand is likely to linger in their electorates.
Untangling the ICAC web
The ICAC investigation looks likely to have boosted Labor’s chances of winning back a cluster of seats on the central coast.
Wyong, The Entrance and Terrigal were held by outgoing Liberal MPs Darren Webber, Chris Spence and Chris Hartcher, who were all accused of involvement in a Liberal party slush fund.
Of those three seats, Wyong and The Entrance are seen as likely Labor gains, but Terrigal has a much longer history as a loyal Liberal seat.
Further north, Labor would also hope to pick up Swansea.
The seat sits on a knife’s-edge margin of 0.3 per cent and was held by another Liberal MP caught up in the hearings, Garry Edwards.
Mr Edwards was disendorsed by the Liberal Party but is recontesting the seat anyway, as an independent.
Labor could also pick up votes in the seat of Port Stephens, with the incumbent Liberal MP Craig Baumann also deciding not to recontest after being accused of hiding developers’ donations to his 2007 campaign.
In Londonberry in Sydney’s north-west, MP Bart Bassett was also embroiled in the corruption scandal.
He too will not recontest, and a recent boundary change has dramatically reduced the Liberal margin, bringing it well within Labor’s reach.
It remains to be seen whether the negative headlines generated by ICAC for months last year will have an impact on the Coalition vote more broadly.
5. The motley crew of the Upper House
The make-up of the Upper House has been a near-constant thorn in the side of the Government over the past four years.
The Coalition has had to negotiate the support of both the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Christian Democrats in order to secure the four cross-bench votes needed to get legislation over the line.
The Shooters have proved particularly troublesome for the Government, which eventually succumbed to a public outcry and backed down on a deal it struck with the Government to allow hunting in national parks.
The Government will be hoping it can win back the Upper House in its own right, but the chances are slim.
The more likely outcome is that the balance of power will still rest with the Shooters, the Christian Democrats or one of the other minor parties chasing an Upper House spot, such as Family First or the Sex Party.
The federal and Victorian parliaments have both recently seen the rise of the micro-parties in their upper houses, with so-called “preference whisperers” successfully managing to get candidates elected with tiny primary votes.
The prospect of the Government having to negotiate with an even more motley crew of crossbenchers in NSW remains a distinct possibility.
6. The ‘swing back’ and redistributions
When any government comes to victory in a landslide of the scale seen in the 2011 election, there is usually some natural “swing back” the next time voters go to the polls.
There are 11 Government-held seats that sit on a margin of less than 6 per cent.
Pundits inside both parties estimate Labor could pick up anywhere between nine and 17 seats.
There has been an electoral redistribution since the 2011 vote, so this year’s election will be fought under new electoral boundaries.
The new maps mean some seats notionally shift party allegiance, based on 2011 voting figures.
The most marginal Government-held seats under the redrawn boundaries are East Hills (Lib 0.2 per cent), Swansea (Lib 0.3 per cent) Prospect (Lib 1.1 per cent), Monaro (Nat 2 per cent), Rockdale (Lib 3.6 per cent), Oatley (Lib 3.8 per cent) and Granville(Lib 3.8 per cent).
7. Greens vs Labor in Newtown and Balmain
There are interesting contests shaping up between Labor and the Greens in two Sydney seats.
In the newly created seat of Newtown, one of the most progressive electorates in the state, Upper House MP Penny Sharpe will take on the Greens’ Jenny Leong.
Some commentators believe Mr Foley’s ambiguous stance on gay marriage may hurt Ms Sharpe’s chances in the seat, but the openly gay MP has run a strong grassroots campaign.
The seat of Balmain will host a rematch of two old foes from the 2011 election: former Labor minister Verity Firth will fight to reclaim the seat from the Greens MP who snatched it from her, Jamie Parker.
Despite the massive swing against Labor in 2011, Ms Firth’s personal popularity in the electorate meant she only lost the seat by about 200 votes in a tight three-way contest.