Independent challenge on the table as Libs clears Potter

Shock Liberal shortlist hopeful Chelsey Potter has been rejected as a potential candidate by the party’s ruling state executive, which could pave the way for the former staffer-turned-whistleblower to run as an independent in the ribbon seat. Bragg blue.

After a brief 48-hour period in which prospective candidates were able to nominate for the party’s only safe seat in Greater Adelaide, to be vacated by former Deputy Prime Minister Vickie Chapman, the party yesterday rushed through a process of the candidate review committee, approving four of the five nominees.

Those were former staff members Jack Batty and Sandy Biar, attorney Melissa Jones and businesswoman Cara Miller, the latter two of whom previously sought the shortlist in neighboring Waite.

But Potter, a former employee who left the party after raising sexual assault allegations against an unidentified former colleague in 2019, is believed to have been rebuffed by the party’s ruling state executive at a meeting last night.

The sources cited her recent efforts supporting independent candidates in safe Liberal seats in both state and federal elections, which she did on behalf of her consultancy Suffragette Group, which provides “strategic advice and communications support to women candidates.”

The decision could pave the way for Potter, who has previously been married to new state deputy leader John Gardner, to stand as an independent in the upcoming by-election, in which the Greens and Labor will also field candidates in the eastern suburbs. seat, which the Liberals hold at 8.2 percent after their drubbing in March state elections.

“It’s definitely disappointing,” Potter said. In the diary late this morning.

Asked if he would consider running without the backing of the Liberals, he said: “I’ve had significant private support from Liberal members and former Liberal members. I’m going to go back and talk to them about the direction they want to see the party going in, the result of this [decision] and what it means.”

Opposition Leader David Speirs, a member of the state executive, said In the diary he was “comfortable” with the decision.

“The pre-selection screening process is an administrative matter for the Liberal Party,” he said.

“I sat on the Candidate Review Committee and was comfortable with the decision to reject Ms. Potter’s candidacy.

“We have four great young candidates moving forward and they will now present their case to local grassroots liberal members who live in the Bragg headquarters.”

It is understood that all the nominees received little notice yesterday to participate in an online interview with the candidate review committee, but although she was invited to participate, Potter was never contacted.

Several hours later, she was informed that the meeting had ended without interviewing her.

She was not personally informed of the executive’s decision until late in the morning, several hours after other candidates were informed that they had been authorized to contest a pre-selection ballot on Sunday, June 5.

An 11 a.m. email to Potter from resigning state director Sascha Meldrum, seen by In the diarysays: “As you know, under the Party Constitution you are not eligible to be a pre-selection candidate since you have not been a member for the last three months, choosing to enter the Party on the closing day of nominations.”

“In order for you to run as a preselection candidate, the state Executive must grant you a special waiver to waive this constitutional requirement,” Meldrum wrote.

“The State Executive met last night and did not agree to provide him with the waiver that would allow him to proceed as a candidate for pre-selection.

“I understand this was mainly due to the fact that you actively campaigned against the Liberal Party in the last two elections.”

In an emailed response, Potter wrote: “Thank you for this advice…although I do not propose to enter into a debate on this matter, I note that such a waiver has previously been granted for shortlisted candidates, particularly if the memory It does not fail me, ours is the now former Prime Minister Steven Marshall, among others.

“Given the tight 48-hour window to nominate, I was forced to make a series of quick decisions about my desire to help rebuild our party,” she continued.

“In the end, I made the decision to return to our party at this crucial time and offer my significant skills and experience in the service of our party.

“My services as a strategic advisor and campaign professional were hired by independents in recent elections, similar to a lawyer hired by clients. I fulfilled my contractual obligations with them.

“I was hoping that perhaps the Liberal Party would seek my services in this capacity, given the evident success of those who have hired me. They could have and chose not to.

“Certainly, these are matters I had intended to discuss with the Committee, had I been afforded some procedural fairness and opportunity to speak on my nomination last night.

“As we have discussed, despite being available an hour in advance and waiting to be called for the next 4 hours, I was excluded from any discussion.

“I was not even informed that the meeting was over and that it would not be required.

“It was most disappointing.”

He continued wishing “all the shortlisted the best for this important contest.”

A Liberal source said the party was preparing for Potter to run as an independent, which could split the Liberal vote and put more pressure on preselectors to pick one of the two women in the race.

“We didn’t keep her as a candidate and she will try to use that against us, but I don’t see how she can, frankly,” the source said, arguing that Potter did not meet the criteria for potential candidates to seek shortlisting. .

It is understood that SA Senator Simon Birmingham, a federal delegate to the SA State Executive, did not attend last night’s meeting, but sent fellow Senator Anne Ruston to represent him.

Birmingham is likely to have recused himself as a former Potter’s employer, although he declined to respond to inquiries.

Potter with fellow whistleblowers Chanel Contos, Rachelle Miller, Brittany Higgins and Josie Coles at the federal Parliament House in February, ahead of a formal apology from political leaders to victims of sexual harassment and abuse in parliament. Photo via AAP, provided by the office of Zali Steggall MP.

In 2019, Potter publicly raised an allegation of sexual assault that she said occurred while working as a Liberal staffer in the Birmingham office, and last year the senator confirmed that he refused to meet with her at the time, despite having been informed of it. accusations.

He told her via text message at the time: “I understand that you have made some serious allegations to the media about an incident that you claim occurred during your time working in my office. I encourage you to talk to professionals about these issues and suggest that the Women’s Information Service or 1800Respect may be suitable options.”

At the time, it was reported that the subject of Potter’s 2019 complaint, who is understood not to have worked at the office, “strongly denies” the allegation.

The Greens are expected to field a candidate next week, while Labor is likely to open nominations in the coming days but is unlikely to pick one until the Liberals have made their decision.

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