PLANS to force Maitland MP Robyn Parker to withdraw her endorsement as the Liberal candidate for Maitland are imminent as the Liberal Party looks for a fresh approach to combat criticism from Labor.
The Newcastle Herald understands there are party members within the Maitland and East Maitland branch who are worried about the damage Labor could do to the party’s vote with a negative campaign that will most likely hinge on the fact that Ms Parker was left out of NSW Premier Mike Baird’s cabinet.
Labor candidate for Maitland Jenny Aitchison has already labelled Ms Parker an ineffective minister who failed to fight for the city and said she ‘‘failed on the environment and was slow to respond to the bats issue in Lorn’’.
The Liberal Party cannot dump Ms Parker as their candidate for Maitland because party headquarters endorsed her as the candidate in December.
This means Ms Parker would have to give in to party pressure and withdraw her endorsement.
Ms Parker this week confirmed her intention to recontest the seat, saying voters elected her to be a ‘‘fearless advocate’’ for the community and that had been her focus.
In three years as heritage minister she delivered a record number of Maitland buildings to the state heritage register including Maitland’s Jewish Cemetery.
There is speculation Maitland councillor and former Liberal Party member Phillip Penfold is being considered as a candidate to replace Ms Parker because of his ability to fight for local issues.
Cr Penfold resigned from the party in 2012 when it did not endorse candidates for the council election, and has since served on council as an independent.
Cr Penfold said he was not a contender because he was no longer a party member and there was no need for Ms Parker to step aside.
‘‘It’s completely unjustified ... This [situation] has positives and negatives, it is going to mean the local member is available locally twice as much and it will be easier to get in to meet with her,’’ Cr Penfold said.
He dismissed Ms Aitchison’s portrayal of Ms Parker, saying Labor would ‘‘have their contest in due course’’.
Ms Parker was endorsed in February 2010 unopposed after contenders Bob Geoghegan and Stephen Mudd were reportedly told by Liberal Party heavyweights to stand aside.
She was a member of the NSW Legislative Council before she made the transition to the Legislative Assembly.