The Nationals have confirmed Maitland cafe owner Josh Angus as the Coalition candidate for Cessnock.
The 26-year-old's nomination was apparently ratified at the party's state election campaign launch in Queanbeyan last weekend.
The process of finding and nominating a conservative candidate in Cessnock has caused disquiet on both sides of the Coalition as they confront Labor incumbent Clayton Barr’s 22 per cent margin.
The Nationals provided few details about Mr Angus and said he was unavailable for a telephone interview on Monday. Instead, the party's Sydney head office sent the Newcastle Herald a brief statement with quotes attributed to him.
“I feel honoured to have the chance to represent the people of the Cessnock electorate,” the statement quotes Mr Angus as saying.
“I’m going to find out what people actually want and need, not just what Sydney thinks they need.
"To do that I’ll go and meet with a wide range of people and talk to them, and see what we can do.”
Mr Angus, who does not live in the Cessnock electorate, was encouraged to run by the party's Largs branch chairman, Nick Stibbard.
Mr Stibbard is a former vice-president of the Maitland Liberals but left the party to set up the Nationals’ Largs branch in 2017.
The Liberals will not run against their Coalition partners in Cessnock, but the manoeuvring to install Mr Angus as a candidate has caused friction.
Cessnock councillor and Liberal branch president Paul Dunn told the Herald last week he had "spent the best part of the last two years positioning our brand to be able to deliver for Cessnock".
A campaign Facebook page for Mr Angus includes pictures of him mingling with people at Mulletfest in Kurri Kurri on Saturday.
Mr Angus said in the statement he wanted to encourage young people to pursue a "great education and a great job in their own communities, not just have to go off to Newcastle or Sydney".
“Towns like Kurri Kurri, West Wallsend, Branxton and Lochinvar all deserve their fair share as well. They’re just as important as the big cities,” he said.
“The Nationals have a great history of delivering better roads, less red tape for business and making life better for people in regional areas. Even though we’re on the doorstep of Newcastle, we’re still a regional area, and I want to make sure we can get ahead as well.”
Rock musician Angry Anderson was the Nationals’ candidate for Cessnock in 2015 but withdrew a month before the poll due to “personal reasons”.
Mr Barr claimed an 18.1 per cent swing in beating Mr Anderson’s replacement, Jessica Price-Purnell.