Cowper now considered a marginal Federal seat

With Luke Hartsuyker set to retire at the 2019 election and with The Nationals moving to preselect a candidate, Cowper is being called a marginal seat.
With Luke Hartsuyker set to retire at the 2019 election and with The Nationals moving to preselect a candidate, Cowper is being called a marginal seat.

COWPER is no longer considered a "safe seat", according to some of the nation's leading political commentators.

The Nationals have held the seat virtually uninterrupted since 1919.

In August, sitting member Luke Hartsuyker, who has held the seat for almost 17 years, announced his retirement.

Delays in announcing candidates for pre-selection led to speculation the party was struggling.

"It is incredible to think they can't find an acceptable candidate for a seat they have held for 97 out of the last 99 years," Labor candidate for Cowper Andrew Woodward said.

Coffs Harbour City councillor Dr Sally Townley is  contesting the seat on behalf of the Greens and has noticed the recent commentary.

"I'm starting to see that and I am hoping it's true," she said.

"When you get the loss of a long-term incumbent you're always going to see a change in voting patterns, but people must be starting to realise that the modern practice of the National Party today is miles apart from its traditional ethos."

It wasn't until October 12 that the Nationals revealed their three candidates for the Cowper pre-selection scheduled for November 3 - solicitor Patrick Conaghan, business owner and electrician Jamie Harrison and newsagent Chris Genders. All three are from the Port Macquarie region.

"In this area you don't seem to have young, energetic, progressive Nationals coming through the ranks," Dr Townley said.

So as the political landscape shifts with the nation facing the prospect of a hung parliament, our electorate also looks set for a radical readjustment.

Speaking at the time of Mr Hartsuyker's retirement, Rob Oakeshott, who ran a last-minute campaign as an independent against him in 2016, urged voters to reflect on what "wall-to-wall Nationals representation for generations" has achieved.

Now, with leading commentators like The Courier-Mail national affairs editor Dennis Atkin referring to Cowper as marginal, it seems voters have been doing just that.

"We've all been readjusting our list of seats, which the Coalition should now view as being in danger and one that I'm told should be added to that list is Cowper," he said on the ABC's Insiders on Sunday morning.

"The sitting member Luke Hartsuyker is retiring and Rob Oakeshott got close with half an effort last time. I think that seat is in grave danger."

Asked where that danger was coming from, he said possibly Labor and didn't believe Mr Oakeshott would run again.

After the episode went to air Mr Woodward said his phone "melted".

"I saw it and got about 30 text messages in the space of three minutes," he said.

"Everything in the house that could go ding went ding."

Mr Oakeshott has not ruled out re-contesting and has indicated he will make a decision by the end of the year.

Earlier in the month The Australian reported that  Nationals federal director Ben Hindmarsh had briefed Nationals MPs on polling commissioned in a number of "key marginal seats" and the list included Cowper.