Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Reluctant Political Candidate (Part 2) - The Campaign

Continuing my 3 part series about my short political involvement. 

My opponent was the former member for Heathcote, Ian McManus. McManus moved to contest the electorate of Burragorang when the redistribution of boundaries made his Heathcote a safe Liberal seat.

When I accepted the nomination as Liberal candidate for Burragorang I quite aware it was a safe Labor Party seat. I had no expectations of winning. With nothing to lose, and although it required a lot of dedication and hard work, I immersed myself into the campaign. I learnt a great deal, it boosted my confidence and I had a ball!

I had a fantastic campaign committee. Hank Vanderpoll, a local business man, was Campaign Director and Mark Stanham was Campaign Secretary but my best buddy, chauffeur and body guard was the wonderful Ron Heise. Ron and his family worked very hard throughout the whole campaign and Ron was always there for support.

A spare room in my home became a campaign office for the Wollondilly Shire section of the electorate but two thirds of voters lived in the northern suburbs of Wollongong so we needed a strong presence in that area.

An old plumbers business was offered and after cleaning out all the plumbing materials and told and giving the building a fresh paint my team had it looking very obviously a campaign office. 

I was honoured when Senator Bronwyn Bishop very kindly agreed to officially open the campaign office. Senator Bishop was a very high profile politician and this electorate was far from being of any importance to the party. The opening was also attended by two lady members of the Legislative Assembly.
Being a short campaign, only two major fundraising functions were held. The first was held at the Fraternity Club in Bellambi and the second at a restaurant between Bargo and Tahmoor. 

My wonderful mentor Senator Michael Baume
Senator Michael Baume was based in Wollongong and both he and his staff were extremely supportive of the three candidates whose electorates took in various parts of the city.  Michael was a wonderful mentor and his staff always ready to help.

Most of the campaign was dedicated to getting out and about; personally meeting as many voters as possible. There were several personal highlights of the campaign.

Ron Heise worked at Tahmoor Colliery and arranged an underground visit for me. I was taken down in the dolly car and allowed to talk to the miners. 

While down there a report came through that the dolly car was down for maintenance and anyone wanting to return to the surface had to come up in the cage. The cage was just that a cage that operated as an elevator and very scary especially when it started wobbling from side to side. Even the miners were not made to use it if they didn’t want to.  Having got safely to the surface I discovered the person who was carrying out the maintenance on the dolly car was Ron Heise!

I also had a chance to visit Westcliffe Colliery - this time with Neil Pickard, Shadow Minister for Mineral Resources. I was allowed to operate the coal miner and mined a quantity of coal. By coincidence, the same day, Parliament passed legislation allowing women to work in coal mines. 
Guess I can claim I was the first lady miner in NSW.

A function was organised by Senator Baume’s staff for Nick Greiner, leader of the Liberal Party, and his wife Kathrine to meet the Wollongong area candidates. The lead up to the function was a street parade. The campaign committees were to decorate a car (or better still several cars) with their candidates’ posters. Not a team to do things by halves, the Burragorang committee decided to have a coal truck!

Senator Michael Baume was the former Federal Member for Macarthur; an area that included the township of Appin.  An important piece of advice was that I HAD to visit the Appin Hotel and talk to the men. So I duly attended one Friday night with Mark Stanham and Ron Heise as support. I began to introduce myself when I was cornered by a local businessman, who happened to be a Liberal supporter. He threw a barrage of questions at me one after the other to the extent it left no time to talk to anyone else.

As we left the hotel we noticed that someone had let two of the tyres down on my Ford Laser. You couldn’t miss it as my car because of the sign that was mounted on top. Thank heavens my men were with me.

On the way home I told mark and Ron that I was not happy with the evening’s outcome and I felt I had to return the following week. Ron came with me again and when my previous interrogator started again with his questions I told him quite firmly that he had enough of my time the previous week and I was there to talk to the other men. 

In Part 3 – It’s Election Day!

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