The Nationals to contest Buninyong at state election

THERE will be a new flavour at this year's state elections in Ballarat, with The Nationals party announcing they will contest the seat of Buninyong in November.

Having not contested for a seat in the Ballarat region for more than 25 years, The Nationals today unveiled Sonia Smith, a lawyer and farmer from Navigators, as its 2014 candidate.

Vowing to focus on growth on development in the newly formed seat, Ms Smith would not comment if she aimed to take votes off the Liberal candidate, who is yet to be announced.

Current Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard has already announced he will run again and contest the seat of Buninyong.

A lawyer with Baird and McGregor law firm in Ballarat, Ms Smith attended Ballarat and Clarendon College, having grown up in the Mallee, before studying international law.

"I believe we each have a duty to do our bit to make the world a better place, each in our own unique way, and leave it in a better state than when we found it for the benefit of future generations," she said. 

The Nationals last had a sitting member in Ballarat back in 1960, when Russell White held the seat of Ballarat North from 1945-1960.

The most recent candidate, Donald Phelan, received just six per cent of the vote in the seat of Ballarat South in 1988, while fellow party member Graeme Orr also lost the 1973 election with just six per cent of votes.

Ms Smith said she did not believe the past failures of the party to attract votes would matter come election time.

Due to have a baby boy in May, Ms Smith said would be able to cope with the rigours of motherhood while running in a state election. 

"I am running to win, I will be engaging with the community, I will be working very hard and listening very closely," she said.

"I'm an ordinary person...I will be doing exactly what everybody else is doing and that is juggling family life."

The Nationals Deputy Leader Peter Walsh said Ms Smith was a high calibre candidate who has first-hand experience of the issues faced by regional communities.

"Sonia Smith has strong links to her community, is a proven hard worker and has the leadership required to help drive the Buninyong region forward," Mr Walsh said. 

The election is due to be held on November 29


Sonia Smith. PIC: Justin Whitelock

Sonia Smith. PIC: Justin Whitelock