Eden-Monaro race wide open as Barilaro bows out
Deputy Premier John Barilaro won't stand for the federal seat of Eden Monaro, but the Liberal party might not have a clear run at the electorate, with the state Nationals leader declaring the party might still run a candidate in the upcoming by-election.
"Just because I'm not running it doesn't necessarily mean that the National Party won't decide to run a candidate," Mr Barilaro said.
"If any other grassroots members want to put their name forward, we should always allow that to happen."
Visibly emotional when announcing he would not stand for the federal seat, Mr Barilaro said it was a hard decision to make.
"But sometimes in this game you let ego get in the way of good decisions, and I've got to make the best decision for me, my family, for the people of NSW," he said.
"For a long time you think that maybe you've got an opportunity to contribute to the national agenda, and I can do that at state level.
"But you know, this is the right thing to do. I'm at peace with myself today. I'm at peace with my decision," he said.
Mr Barilaro endorsed Transport Minister Andrew Constance for the seat vacated by Labor's Mike Kelly. That's despite Senator Jim Molan also considering running for Liberal preselection.
Mr Barilaro thanked Premier Gladys Berejiklian for her "gracious and gentle counsel" and assured the people of Eden Monaro that as a state member, he would "continue to fight for you".
Mr Barilaro - who had been tipped to enter the race the favourite - weighed his decision over the weekend, and it is understood polling and family considerations made him rethink his tilt.
"It is clear I can do more as NSW Deputy Premier, Leader of the NSW Nationals and as the Member for Monaro," he said.
"In politics, ego can quickly skew decisions, and sometimes make you forget what is best for yourself, your family and what could be the best outcome for the people of Eden Monaro.
"My decision was difficult but at the heart of it, I love NSW, and the incredible job we have done so far and I want to be here to face the challenges ahead as we rebuild from drought, bushfires and COVID-19."
The Saturday Telegraph revealed how Mr Constance had privately urged members of the NSW Liberal state executive late last week to do thorough research in the seat before settling on a candidate.
Senior Liberals are now urging Mr Constance to run, pointing to party-commissioned Crosby Textor polling which showed he could beat both Mr Barilaro and Labor's preferred candidate Bega Mayor Kristy McBain.
Mr Constance lives just outside of the Eden-Monaro electorate but he spent his teenage years living in Queanbeyan.
It was only on March 9 that Mr Constance declared on 2GB radio that he intended to quit politics after the fire recovery.
Mr Barilaro had expressly stated it was not his preference to contest a three cornered contest against a Liberal, but Mr Constance was of the view this was the Coalition's better chance at the seat.
While Mr Constance has previously stated he would not run against his friend Mr Barilaro, he left his options open to contest the seat.
Anthony Albanese announced Ms McBain to be his favoured candidate last week, and Mr Constance told Liberal colleagues he believed the conservative vote risked leakage in the Bega area if the party did not contest.
Originally published as Eden-Monaro race wide open as Barilaro bows out