City of Sydney councillor Christine Forster – Tony Abbott’s sister – has pulled out of the running to be the Liberal candidate in the by-election for Wentworth, the seat previously held by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
It comes less than a week after she confirmed she would run.
On Facebook, Forster said her candidature had become a “proxy for division” in the party in the wake of last month’s leadership spill.
“The commentary about my candidacy since then, however, has focused on the suggestion that it was a proxy for division within the Liberal party,” she said.
“That is not the case, but to avoid any such perception, I will be standing aside and giving my full support to the successful candidate.”
While previously considered a safe Liberal seat, the eastern Sydney electorate has diverse demographics, including a high number of gay and lesbian, as well as Jewish residents.
Turnbull won the seat in 2016 with a 17.5% margin against Labor candidate Evan Hughes, son of the late art dealer Ray Hughes.
On Friday, Labor re-endorsed locally-born businessman and economist Tim Murray as its candidate. Murray, who worked in China for 20 years, and returned to Waverley five years ago, is chairman of Tamarama Surf Club.
On the weekend, Turnbull’s son Alex, threw his weight behind Murray’s fundraising efforts, saying it’s the “best bang for the buck you’ll get in political donations in your life”.
Best bang for the buck you'll get in political donations in your life. Tight race, tight margin for government, big incremental effect whatever happens. If you want a federal election now this is the means by which to achieve it. https://t.co/YgTQGhQwBa
— Alex Turnbull (@alexbhturnbull) September 1, 2018
Party polling is believed to show that the Liberal primary vote in Wentworth could plummet from 62% under Turnbull to less than 50%, while polling last week placed the seat on a knife edge. Labor has never won the seat in 117 years.
Turnbull resigned as the local MP on Friday and flew out to the US on the weekend with his wife, Lucy.
Among those believed to be lining up for the Liberal pre-selection in the blue chip seat are Australia’s former ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, and Andrew Bragg, the party’s former acting federal director, who resigned from his role as executive director of the Business Council of Australia to be a candidate.
Forster’s fellow Sydney councillor and same-sex marriage campaigner Dr Kerryn Phelps is also believed to be considering running as an independent.
Phelps, a former Australian Medical Association president who’s maintained a high media profile, is a GP in Double Bay.
The Greens have chosen Waverley Deputy Mayor Dominik Wy Kanak as their candidate.
Additional reporting by Simon Thomsen.
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