The polls already indicate he’s going to have a tough run to retain the Liberal’s blue-ribbon federal seat of Wentworth, the seat previously held by Malcolm Turnbull. But then if we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to take poll results with a big grain of salt.
David Sharma, a former Australian ambassador to Israel is the Liberal party’s pick to lead the charge in Wentworth.
Sharma beat seven other candidates to win the pre-selection battle triggered by the resignation of the former prime minister who was forced to stand down by his own party.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison had lobbied for the party to select a woman, frontrunner Katherine O’Regan lost out.
‘Of course I want to see more Liberal women in parliament but I always want to see the best candidate selected,’ Mr Morrison tweeted on Friday.
‘That’s what members rightly decided last night. Thank you and well done to the selectors and a very big congratulations to David.’
Mr Sharma faces a tough battle to retain Wentworth, the Sydney eastern suburbs seat held by Mr Turnbull on a primary vote of more than 60%, with early polling indicating a big swing against the party.
‘Congratulations,’ Mr Turnbull tweeted from New York, where he is currently on holidays. ‘As a diplomat Dave has represented Australia magnificently overseas and now if elected will make a great contribution in our national parliament.’
On Thursday night scores of party faithful filed into the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Football Club in Rose Bay to decide who would contest the seat.
Ms O’Regan was originally tipped to get the Liberal party nod after another key candidate Andrew Bragg pulled out of the contest under mounting pressure from Canberra, but it was Mr Sharma who emerged as the winner at 1.30am.
‘We have a tough fight ahead of us to hold onto this seat, but I’ll be throwing my all into it, and I believe we can retain it and retain a Liberal government in Canberra,’ Mr Sharma told reporters.
Mr Sharma is understood to have come under pressure to pull out of the pre-selection battle as party power brokers pushed for a female candidate.
But Mr Turnbull reportedly called Mr Sharma from New York, urging him to stay in the race.
Mr Bragg quit the race on Monday, saying he hoped it would pave the way for a woman. It is also understood he agreed to pull out in exchange for a safe spot on the party’s Senate ticket.
Polling commissioned by Mr Bragg suggested a woman had a better chance of winning the by-election for Wentworth, which will be held on 20 October.
Same-sex marriage campaigner and City of Sydney councillor Kerryn Phelps is still considering running for the seat as an independent.
Pre-selection candidate and former member for Wentworth Peter King said he wasn’t surprised a man was selected in the end.
‘The decision was made on the merits and that’s the way it should be,’ Mr King told AAP.
Labor is backing Tamarama Surf Lifesaving president Tim Murray to run in the seat.
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The Australian Tribune with AAP