CHALLENGER: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate for Clarence, Steve Cansdell.
CHALLENGER: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate for Clarence, Steve Cansdell. Adam Hourigan

Clarence MP claims rival shot for a spot on Nats' team

RUNNING as a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate was Steve Cansdell's second choice when he decided to return to State politics earlier this year, says Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis.

Mr Gulaptis, who won the seat in a 2011 by-election after Mr Cansdell resigned after admitting he falsified a statutory declaration to avoid a speeding fine and loss of licence, said Mr Cansdell approached him about running for the Nationals in Clarence just weeks before he revealed he would be the SFF candidate for the 2019 poll.

"I'm not sure how convinced Steve was to run for the Shooters and Fishers," Mr Gulaptis said.

"About two or three weeks before he announced he would be running for the SFF, he came to see me in my office.

"He asked me if I was going to run again in 2019 and said if I wasn't he would be prepared to rejoin the party and be the candidate if I didn't want to go again.

"I told him I was going to run again and Steve said he would go and think about it.

"A few weeks later he announced he was running with the Shooters and Fishers."

But Mr Cansdell said his successor in Clarence must have got his wires crossed.

"That's rubbish," he said. "The meeting did take place, but I never said anything about rejoining the party and running for the Nats.

"I resigned from the Nats after the greyhound debacle. And there are a few other things, like the delay in fixing the Ulmarra speeding situation and voting the electricity sell off that I couldn't stomach now.

"It would be hypocritical of me to rejoin the party that said it would oppose things like selling off the electricity grid, then changed its mind in 12 months to suit its Liberal Party coalition partners."

But Mr Cansdell said there had been pressure on him from the community to run again as a Nationals candidate.

"People from the Nats came to me privately and said 'Cansdell, you've got to run again', and so the thought crossed my mind. But when I considered it, I realised there was no way I could go back to the Nats.

"I don't know if some of this support for me got back to Chris and he thought it was on."

Mr Cansdell said when the meeting with Mr Gulaptis concluded he said something like, "I would consider my future.

"There is also the technical consideration that you have to be a party member for 12 months before you can be a candidate.

"I would have needed a special dispensation from head office to be a candidate, so there would have been that step to consider as well."