HE IS yet to be cleared of wrongdoing by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, but former Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann has been elected to a senior position within the Paterson Liberal Party as it embarks on a second federal preselection campaign less than three months out from a likely election.
Mr Baumann, who left the Pparliament in 2015 amid allegations in ICAC that he took secret developer donations before the 2007 election, was elected as vice president of the Paterson Federal Electorate Council at a party meeting on Saturday.
Mr Baumann is also the president of the Medowie branch of the Liberal Party, and while his continued role in Liberal politics has raised eyebrows within his party, the former state member said he was not concerned about how his elevation to a senior role would look in the lead-up to an election.
Operation Spicer has yet to release any findings, but Mr Baumann denies any wrongdoing and has maintained a profile within Port Stephens since leaving parliament.
“I moved to the cross bench in Parliament, but I never left the party, so there’s no problem there as far as I can see,” he said.
“If the report did come out and showed that I did something wrong then I would probably resign from the position and as president of my local branch.
“But it has dragged on forever [and] life has to go on.”
Meanwhile, Bob Baldwin’s shock retirement on Saturday has sparked a race to find a replacement.
Preselection is expected to open in the coming days, and at least four names are being circulated as possible replacements.
Karen Howard is among them, as is Port Stephens councillor Ken Jordan.
However, Jaimie Abbott, the former Newcastle candidate and now president of the Port Stephens branch of the party, will not stand.
“My focus is on the local area of Port Stephens,” she said.
Ms Howard was briefly a contender for the seat in February before Mr Baldwin announced he would run.
However, she was elected president of the Newcastle Federal Electorate Council as recently as last week, and does not live in the Paterson electorate.
Saturday’s meeting also saw Maitland Councillor Bob Geoghegan, a close ally of Mr Baldwin, survive a challenge from former Maitland state candidate Steve Thomson to remain as president of the electorate council.
In 2014 the ICAC heard evidence that Mr Baumann allegedly took $79,684 in secret donations from developers Jeff McCloy and Hilton Grugeon before the 2007 election.
The money was said to have been received before the 2010 developer donations ban, but not declared.