Mark Speakman has decided not to nominate for the leadership of the NSW parliamentary Liberal Party.
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet looks increasingly likely to replace Gladys Berejiklian as premier although Planning Minister Rob Stokes remains in the contest.
Mr Perrottet has done a deal which will see Stuart Ayres, the Minister for Jobs, Investment, Tourism and Western Sydney as deputy leader.
Mr Speakman, the MP for Cronulla, Attorney-General and Minister for Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence, issued a statement on Sunday evening.
"I'm humbled by the unsolicited support of many colleagues who encouraged me to nominate as leader of the NSW Liberal Party," he said.
"I've decided that the best interests of the people of NSW are served by ensuring as much continuity and stability as possible when we move into the recovery stage of the state's biggest crisis since World War II.
"I'll therefore not be nominating for the leadership position, but I'll continue to work hard to support the people of NSW through a strong Coalition Government."
Earlier - Friday
Mark Speakman could be the dark horse in the race to replace Gladys Berejiklian as Premier of NSW.
The Cronulla MP, who is Attorney-General and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, is considered very capable and an excellent communicator and would be a safe choice in the current environment.
Mr Speakman did not respond when asked whether he would be a contender for the leadership, which will be decided by Liberal Party MPs on Tuesday.
He is a member of the Moderates faction as is Planning Minister Rob Stokes.
Mr Stokes and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, a member of the right, are the front runners, with Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres and Transport Minister Andrew Constance other possibilities.
In a Facebook post, Mr Speakman said he was "shocked and deeply saddened" by Ms Berejiklian's announcement.
"Gladys has been at the helm during some of our state's most difficult times," he said.
"As Transport Minister and Treasurer, she transformed the trains and revitalised infrastructure in NSW.
"She has weathered natural disasters and steered the state decisively through the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The remarkable conviction, resilience and grace with which she has tackled challenges have been a source of comfort and inspiration to millions of citizens.
"During 18 years in public life, Gladys has shown herself to be a dedicated leader of the very highest calibre.
"At the end of a political career, all any politician can hope for is that they leave behind a better place than they inherited.
"NSW is certainly a better place for Gladys Berejiklian's contribution."
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