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Liberal campaign in chaos

SUSPENDED: David Compton’s name will still appear on the ballot, despite being disendorsed by the NSW Liberal Party. THE NSW Liberal Party insists that the decision to disendorse David Compton and two of the members of his ticket was due to an “irregularity” with his nomination form.

But the end of Mr Compton’s campaign for Newcastle Lord Mayor, and his suspension from the party, came afterweeks of speculation about his futureand the decision to stand in the first place.

The Newcastle Heraldrevealed on Friday that Mr Compton had been dropped from the party’s ticket because of what a party spokesman described as “irregularities” with documentslodged with the NSW Electoral Commission.

The Liberal Party has refused to offer any more detail, but the Heraldunderstands the issue relates to how one of the candidate’s nomination formswas witnessed.

But speculation is rife within the party membership that there’s more to Mr Compton’s dismissalthan meets the eye.

In recent weeks Mr Compton had become isolated from the other candidates on the party’s ticket, andmembers within the Newcastle branch of the party had been concerned about his well-being.

He failed to attend a number of candidate forums, and wasn’t at the final meeting of the current council last week. His motivation for standing as lord mayor was also being questioned within the party.

Mr Compton’s nomination was a first for theLiberal Party, which had never previously run a candidate for lord mayor. And while he spoke about beinghumbledby his preselection, he’d been under pressure not to stand to avoid eating into the vote of pro-business independent candidate Kath Elliott.

The remaining three Liberal Party ward candidates insist they’ve been kept in the dark on the reasons behind Mr Compton’s suspension. Hannah Eves, the party’s candidate in Ward 4, said she didn’t know what had happened with Mr Compton’s campaign.

“It’s obviously disappointing but rules are rules and they have to be followed,” she said.

Because nominations are closedMr Compton’s name will still appear on the ballot paper on election day, and in the event that he won the vote, he would still be eligible to take up a spot on the council,either in Ward 3 or as the lord mayor.

In 2013, Kevin Baker, now a Lake Macquarie councillor, ceased campaigning forthe Liberal Party while runningfor the seat of Charlton because of his links to an offensive website.

He and the party stoppedcampaigning in the seat, but Mr Baker still pulled 28.5 per cent of the primary vote.

Pauline Hanson was dumped asthe Liberal Party’s candidate in 1996, but went on to win the Queensland seat of Oxley.

The Heraldreported on Friday that Mr Compton’s disendorsement will likely pave the way for them to preference Ms Elliott’s campaign in the mayoral race.

Ms Elliott said she was “disappointed” Mr Compton would not be standing but said she would “appreciate” their vote.

She said she had not had discussions with the Liberal Party about a preference deal, but would be open to talking.

“The thing is Ibelieve passionatelyin doing what’s right for the city and I’m working very hard to get elected so if peoplefeel they’d like to vote for me then I’d appreciate their vote,” she said.

“I’d imagine this does increase my chances andI’m pleased about it for me but Iam disappointed forLiberal Party voters andfor David.”

Correction:An earlier version of this story stated that Kevin Baker was disendorsed by the Liberal Party in 2013. This is incorrect. Mr Baker ceased campaigning for the party when the offensive website became an issue in the 2013 campaign.

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