SATURDAY was a good day for Alan Hunter.
As punters in Penrith voted in droves to drive NSW Labor out of one of its heartland seats, Richmond Nationals members voted Mr Hunter in as their candidate for Richmond in the coming Federal election.
As leadership speculation knocked Federal Labor and Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner urged MPs to hold the line, Mr Hunter and his fellow Richmond Nationals were discussing the possibility – unimaginable only six months ago – of winning the seat and winning government.
And as Nationals leader Warren Truss announced a $1 billion Coalition education policy at a party conference in Canberra, along with two several Nationals-only policies that set them apart from the Liberal Party, Mr Hunter started his election campaign with a quick with a voter at a picnic table by the Tweed River at Chinderah.
Mr Hunter grinned as he strode across the park to the table where his wife, Pauline, and supporters including Lismore MP Thomas George celebrated over fish and chips.
“I just got my first vote,” he said.
Only 42,566 votes to go.
Regardless of how poorly Federal Labor is faring in the polls at present, Mr Hunter, a retired farmer and, until Saturday, president of the Richmond Nationals, has an uphill battle to make himself the next Member for Richmond, and he knows it.
Sitting member Justine Elliot is going for her third term and finished her last election campaign with a nine per cent margin.
That alone would make the seat a tough fight.
However, the Liberal Party is also contesting Richmond this year, putting to the test the theory that conservative voters in the increasingly urban seat are more likely to vote Liberal than National, given the choice.
That means a split conservative vote. Mr Hunter said he was not worried about the prospect of a three-cornered contest and hoped to meet with Liberal candidate Joan Van Lieshout so they could coordinate their campaigns.
Mr Hunter enters the race six months late after former candidate Tania Murdock recently quit the post. As a Myocum resident, Mr Hunter also comes from the electorate's southern end and will have to work hard to build a profile around Tweed Heads, which holds more than half the electorate's population.
Mr Hunter said his primary goal would be to get “a very good deal for Richmond”.
“I want to show the people of Richmond what a really good politician looks like.”