From left, Steve Thomson, Philip Penfold and Lisa Tierney.FORMER Maitland Business Chamber president Steve Thomson is firming as the front-runner for endorsement as the Liberal Party candidate for the state seat of Maitland.
Liberal Party sources have told the Newcastle Herald that Mr Thomson approached Maitland MP Robyn Parker to discuss his political ambitions after she announced last month that she would retire from politics at the next election.
Mr Thomson stepped down as chamber president last month to be the voice for small business chambers across the district on the Hunter Business Chamber board.
He has previously denied he would nominate for Liberal Party preselection and was unavailable for comment on Sunday.
However, a source said the party was keen to see Mr Thomson endorsed because he had the “unknown factor”, had done a lot for Maitland, knew how to get publicity and already had a public profile.
Newcastle councillor and Maitland Liberal Party branch treasurer Lisa Tierney has publicly confirmed her nomination for preselection and the Herald understands there is another prospective candidate in the wings.
Ms Tierney, who works and lives in Newcastle, has come under fire from Maitland councillor and independent candidate for the state seat Philip Penfold – who says Ms Tierney could not give Maitland her full attention.
The pair were close friends during their time on Maitland City Council between 2008 and 2012, and according to Mr Penfold they remain friends.
He believes he has the upper hand as he has already been elected to serve the people of Maitland as a councillor.
The state electoral boundaries are the same as for the Maitland local government area.
He will run for mayor in 2016 if he is not elected as the state MP.
But fellow Maitland councillor and East Maitland Liberal Party branch president Bob Geoghegan said Cr Penfold was taking advantage of electoral funding laws, which reimburse candidates for campaign costs to a certain extent if they receive more than 4per cent of first preference votes.
Cr Geoghegan questioned Mr Penfold’s motives for running for the state election when he had publicly maintained his eyes were firmly on becoming mayor.
Mr Penfold rejected the accusations, saying he “was one of the most proactive councillors” and funding laws were not designed to allow candidates to make money.