THE Liberal Party has preselected small business owner Greg Bickley to run in retiring Labor backbencher Steve Gibbons' Bendigo seat, against union official Lisa Chesters.
In Melbourne yesterday, Labor preselection voting in the inner city also began. Victorian ALP president Cath Bowtell, who lost to Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt in 2010, is tipped to be selected again but is being challenged by Harvey Stern, the Victorian president of Labor for Refugees.
While the Bendigo seat is considered safe, Mr Gibbons' retirement means Labor loses the advantage of incumbency, with both the Liberals and Nationals eyeing off the seat.
The Nationals are yet to select their candidate. The party's enthusiasm for Bendigo follows former Carlton footballer Steven Oliver's performance in the 2010 state election in Bendigo West, where he out-polled the Liberals and, despite losing, won a swing against Labor.
Asked yesterday if he had nominated for preselection, he said: "Not at this stage."