Sutherland Shire councillor Kent Johns is poised for another Liberal Party preselection battle to replace Craig Kelly as the MP for Hughes.
At the same time, the Labor Party has begun a search for a candidate, with a key source saying, "With what's been going on, we are looking at some more out of the box options, such as possibly someone who has a high profile even if they are not necessarily a long-time party member".
Moves within both parties have intensified as a result of this week's events in which, as one prominent Liberal put it, "Craig Kelly blew himself up", receiving a dressing down from Prime Minister Scott Morrison over his COVID-19 views.
Cr Johns' supporters are confident he has the numbers to beat Mr Kelly.
If that happens, it will be third time lucky for Cr Johns, who looked likely to defeat Mr Kelly in preselection for the 2016 and 2019 elections only to have Prime Ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison intervene.
Cr Johns, a former vice-president of the NSW Liberal Party, is from the Moderates faction. His partner Melanie Gibbons represents the same area as the state MP for Holsworthy.
Cr Johns started in politics as a Labor Party member of Rockdale Council in 1995, and served one term as mayor, before quitting the party over a corruption scandal.
He was elected as a Liberal to Sutherland Shire Council in 2004 and was mayor in 2012-13 and 2014-15.
Cr Carmelo Pesce, who was shire mayor for five years until 2020, has also been mentioned as a possible Liberal candidate for Hughes.
Cr Pesce said he was "flattered", but ruled out the idea. "I give 110 per cent, and I don't think it would be fair on my family and businesses," he said.
Liberal Party officials could also look at bringing in a well-credentialled outsider. Both Mr Morrison and David Coleman in Banks were imports.
Mr Kelly, who has been an MP since 2010, said all members had to re-apply for their jobs every three years.
"We have to seek re-endorsement from our party and the electorate," he said. Whenever the next election is called, I am confident to stand on my record and seek re-endorsement from both.
"And importantly, this job is not about trying to popular - it's about standing up and fighting for the rights and freedoms of the electors".
At the 2019 election, Mr Kelly increased his margin from 0.5 per cent to 9.9 per cent despite being targeted by climate change activists.
"We weren't taking on the Labor Party," Mr Kelly told supporters on election night. "We were taking on Labor, Greens and GetUp. We had three teams against us and we smashed them all."
Sutherland Shire councillor Diedree Steinwall, who was the Labor candidate for Hughes at the last two elections, is keeping her options open on whether to seek preselection for a third time.
"As always it will be up to local Labor Party members to decide on the federal candidate for Hughes," she said in a statement. "Preselections have not yet been called."
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