Poll says shooters may win by-election

RACE ON: SFFP Upper House MLC Robert Borsak says his party hopes to pick its candidate for the Cootamundra by-election by the end of August.

RACE ON: SFFP Upper House MLC Robert Borsak says his party hopes to pick its candidate for the Cootamundra by-election by the end of August.

The Central West state electorate of Cootamundra, considered a safe seat for the Nationals, could be up for grabs.

Katrina Hodgkinson

Katrina Hodgkinson

A by-election looms for Cootamundra after last week’s shock announcement by the current Nationals MP and former NSW Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, that she was retiring.

The by-election comes around 12 months after the Nationals lost the state seat of Orange, also considered a party stronghold, to Phil Donato of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP).

In a Fairfax Media poll this week over 68 per cent of  more than 1000 respondents said they will vote for the SFFP in the by-election.

The poll asked readers to vote along party lines only as no candidates have been nominated yet.

Less than seven per cent of respondents said they would vote for an independent (2.69), the Greens (1.29) or the Liberal Party (1.67).

The Nationals polled 12.41 per cent and Labor 11.57.

Labor's Charlie Sheahan, who stood for Country Labor at the 2015 election, has put up his hand to run in the by-election but the SFFP and the Nationals are yet to name their candidates.

SFFP Upper House MLC Robert Borsak said he was flattered by the poll response.

"We have to take a modest approach to polls like this,” he said.

But he said his party appreciated the “vote of confidence” from respondents.

"We'll give the by-election our best shot, and we hope that on polling day people back us the way they have in your poll."

Mr Borsak said the SFFP is close to finalising a candidate.

"We've had 10 good people put up their hands, but we have got some time to choose our candidate because we don't think the election will be held until the end of October or early November," he said.

"We would hope to have our candidate pre-selected by the end of August.

"Our polling tells us the Nationals are down from 65 per cent to around 40 per cent and of course your straw poll is indicating even stronger numbers, but we won't take the constituents of Cootamundra for granted that is for sure."

Mr Borsak said once SFFP has a candidate it will release policy stances on wider political issues like schools, roads and health.

The Nationals closed nominations for candidates on Friday. Party members will vote for a candidate and an announcement is expected next Friday.