Mr Hutchinson and Mr Asten – a strong backer of long-time MP Kevin Andrews in his unsuccessful preselection bid earlier this year – are aligned with the federal MPs.
Mr Violi is likely to start the race with the most local support. Mr Asten, a former chief of staff to minister Alan Tudge, is regarded as a well-qualified candidate. Mr Hutchinson will vie for the backing of local party members aligned with the federal MPs’ faction.
A senior party source, speaking anonymously because members are not permitted to discuss the preselection, said Cr Campbell’s backers believed she could succeed because she was the brightest and most impressive candidate. The source said she would face resistance from some local members who may prefer a candidate like Mr Violi with well-developed community connections and a background in local businesses.
Cr Campbell is married to Herald Sun journalist James Campbell, who reports on federal politics for News Corp’s Sunday tabloids. It would not be the first time a political journalist has been in a relationship with an MP. Channel Nine reporter Chris Uhlmann and The Australian columnist Paul Kelly were in relationships with MPs, and The Australian’s political editor Simon Benson is in a relationship with Nationals minister Bridget McKenzie.
Cr Campbell, chair of the party’s Melbourne electorate conference, does not live in Casey but has committed to party members that she would move if preselected. She declined to comment for this story.
She is backed by former Howard government minister Fran Bailey and former Supreme Court judge Jack Rush, QC, who was the counsel assisting the Black Saturday royal commission.
“Roshena was responsible for investigating the last actions of those who were lost. This was harrowing work requiring an understanding and sympathy for next of kin, family, friends and the community but also commitment and motivation beyond the norm,” Mr Rush wrote in his endorsement.
“Her work was outstanding and, as a consequence, the royal commission delivered outcomes for persons affected, including people in the electorate of Casey.”
Ms Bailey said Cr Campbell would be an outstanding replacement for Mr Smith, who she supported for preselection 20 years ago. “At this preselection a young man, who then did not live in the electorate and was not considered to be ‘the local candidate’, won that challenge because he was the best qualified candidate for Federal Parliament,” she wrote.
“I am excited that today we have once again an outstanding, well-qualified candidate who … has already established a strong connection with the electorate through her work [in the royal commission].”
Cr Campbell has previously been mooted as a replacement for outgoing senator Scott Ryan. Simon Frost, former party state director and senior adviser to Mr Frydenberg, has also been raised as a candidate.
Cr Campbell was elected on City of Melbourne lord mayor Sally Capp’s ticket in November. Her term lasts four years and she would need to be replaced if she were elected as the candidate for the federal election, due any time between September this year and March next year.
The Casey preselection was due to be held in mid-September but may be delayed because of public health restrictions on large gatherings.
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