The political future of Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis is attracting national attention on Thursday morning.
Speculation is mounting that Grant Schultz, a Milton businessman and son of late federal Member for Hume Alby Schultz, will challenge Mrs Sudmalis for preselection.
However, pressure is being exerted from Canberra to keep the sitting MP, fuelled by the outcry over the dumping of junior cabinet member Jane Prentice in a preselection contest in her seat of Ryan.
The Coalition is facing growing criticism over the lack of female MPs in its ranks and it is understood Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told local Liberals in Gilmore he wants no challenge against Mrs Sudmalis.
Sitting on a razor thin margin, it is imperative for the Coalition that it retains Gilmore. However, there has been ongoing concern in local party ranks about Mrs Sudmalis’s ability to hold on to the seat.
Her position was bolstered on May 3, when the Prime Minister announced $155 million in funding for a new bridge in Nowra, for which Mrs Sudmalis had been campaigning.
During his visit, Mr Turnbull enthusiastically endorsed Mrs Sudmalis as a local candidate.
An ABC report aired on radio suggested Kiama MP and NSW Liberal powerbroker Gareth Ward, who it said had a toxic relationship with Mrs Sudmalis, had thrown his support behind Grant Schultz.
“I have never been asked for my support for Mrs Sudmalis or Mr Schultz,” Mr Ward said.
“The assertion is inaccurate. The ABC journalist who put together the report never put the question to me.
“It is quite unprofessional and a matter I will be taking up with the ABC,” he said.