Political hot seat

Liberal Party preselection opened on Monday for the seat of Mount Gambier, currently held by Independent MP Troy Bell. While no hats were immediately thrown into the ring, Liberal sources believe well-known Mount Gambier resident Ben Hood is considering his nomination.

Mr Hood, 41, is one of four State Liberal Party vice presidents and is also Mount Gambier branch president. He is a Mount Gambier City Council councillor, having been elected in 2018 and also sits on a number of local boards and charities. Mr Hood is a director of creative agency Hello Friday and co-creator of children’s educational brand George the Farmer.

The SE Voice contacted Mr Hood to confirm his intent to nominate, however he was unable to publicly comment “I do not comment on internal party matters,” Mr Hood said. The State Election is scheduled for March 2022, and just two Liberal Party members have represented the seat of Mount Gambier since the electorate was founded 83 years ago in 1938.

They were Harold Allison who served from 1975-1997 and Troy Bell who was first elected in 2014 and subsequently turned Independent and was re-elected with this status in 2018. The other Independents have been John Fletcher (1938- 1958), Rory McEwen (1997-2010) and Don Pegler (2010- 2014).

The Labor Party members for Mount Gambier have been Ron Ralston (1958-62) and Allan Burdon (1962-75). The unsuccessful Liberal Party candidates have included trucking and fuel magnate Allan Scott who failed to unseat Mr Burdon at the 1968 poll.

In more recent times, the Liberals have nominated the likes of sawmiller Scott Dixon in 1997, Mount Gambier Show Society president Roger Saunders (2002), retailer Peter Gandolfi (2006), ex-Mount Gambier Mayor Steve Perryman (2010) and meteorologist Craig Marsh (2018).

The only members for Mount Gambier to be elevated to State Cabinet have been Mr McEwen and Mr Allison. The only members for Mount Gambier to have sat on the government benches as party members have been Mr Burdon (1965-68 and 1970-75), Mr Allison (1979-82 and 1993-97) and Mr Bell (2014-17).

For much of the twentieth century, the Liberal Party in South Australia was in a formal coalition with the Country Party (now National Party) and ran candidates under the Liberal Country League banner.

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