Olympic shooter Daniel Repacholi is the latest man into the ring to contest the seat of Hunter after winning Labor preselection on Friday.
The party national executive rubber-stamped Anthony Albanese's pick to defend departing MP Joel Fitzgibbon's patch, controversially bypassing a rank-and-file vote by branch members.
Labor sources said the vote was unanimous for Mr Repacholi, who joined the party last month.
Three other party members, Teralba lawyer Stephen Ryan, former Cessnock councillor Morgan Cambell and 2019 Lake Macquarie state candidate Jo Smith, nominated for preselection.
The 39-year-old Mr Repacholi will face, among others, the Nationals' 28-year-old school community relations officer James Thomson and One Nation businessman Dale McNamara in the ballot, which is due before May next year.
Mr Repacholi was chosen despite negative publicity this week over his past activity on social media, which has included sexually suggestive remarks, links to websites displaying naked women and a comment describing India as a "shit hole".
The Nulkaba native lived up to Mr Fitzgibbon's description of him as a "normal larrikin Australian" when he wrote to Hunter branch members on Friday morning to apologise for his Facebook and Instagram posts while denying he was a "misogynistic prick".
To date, Mr Repacholi's public image could not contrast more starkly with that of the low-profile Mr Thomson, who describes himself as a "committed Christian" who attends the Goodlife Church.
Labor has tasked Mr Repacholi with hanging on to Hunter after Mr Fitzgibbon, a former cabinet minister, saw his 12 per cent margin cut to just 3 per cent at the 2019 election.
On that occasion, straight-talking coalminer Stuart Bonds won 21 per cent of the primary vote and almost helped the Nationals win the seat on preferences.
A party insider said talk that Mr Repacholi was cut from the same cloth as Mr Bonds and would appeal to right-wing voters was off the mark.
The source said Mr Repacholi would be a "moderate centre" candidate who could express support for the coal industry while talking about renewable energy.
NSW Labor headquarters told branch members a week ago that it had referred preselections for Hunter and the Sydney seat of Fowler to the national executive after a "request from the federal Labor leader for an expedited preselection process".
The move prompted outrage from long-time branch members and potential candidates who had been itching for a preselection contest.
It appears those disenchanted members can now either begrudgingly support Mr Repacholi's campaign or walk away and risk losing a seat in what is expected to be a tight battle against the Morrison government.
Mr Ryan said on Friday evening that he wished Mr Repacholi "all the best" and would get behind his campaign, but other branch members predicted some of their colleagues would refrain from helping during the election.
Toronto branch member Daniel Wallace, the former secretary of the region's peak union body, Hunter Workers, confirmed he would follow through with his threat to stand as an independent.
Mr Fitzgibbon, who quit shadow cabinet last year while accusing Labor of abandoning its working-class base in favour of inner-city elites, said after announcing his departure last week that he was confident Labor would retain the seat.
Nationals polling after Barnaby Joyce regained the party leadership in June pointed to Mr Fitzgibbon having won back five percentage points of his lost margin.
Labor now hopes Mr Repacholi's profile as a five-time Olympian and coal industry worker will turn polling numbers into reality.
Mr Fitzgibbon has mounted a fiercely pro-coal campaign since 2019, and the industry's future was at the centre of debate during the Upper Hunter state by-election in May.
Mr Repacholi did not respond to a request for an interview on Friday, but he acknowledged in an email to party members on Thursday night the "call for more and more renewable energy and diversification, as the coal fired power stations come to the end of their life".
He also said the Hunter was "working towards the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050".
The email prompted a series of at-times furious responses urging him to abandon his nomination then his own "misogynistic prick" defence.
Dan Repacholi's first email to party members
Dear Party Member,
I'm Dan Repacholi and I'm writing to you because I've decided to nominate as the Labor Candidate for Hunter.
l live in Nulkaba, with my wife and 2 young daughters. I'm standing for the seat of the Hunter as I believe that I'm a great candidate to voice the needs and wants for this Electorate.
I'm an everyday Australian that's fought hard to have the opportunity to do some amazing things like represent our beautiful country at 5 Olympic Games and 4 Commonwealth Games, where I have won 3 gold medals and 3 bronze medals.
I'm not a guy who has come through the usual path to politics. I'm a fitter by trade and I've been a blue collar worker all my life. I've watched first-hand as jobs in our areas have suffered. Companies can't find apprentices and the Morrison Government has slashed funding to apprenticeships in this country. I want my kids to have the same opportunities that I did and that's why I've decided to run.
I have a strong focus on my local community, sitting as the current Vice President of the Cessnock Pistol Club, coaching junior athletes, volunteering at my daughter's school and regularly speaking at schools about my sporting journey.
What I believe in, is that if you work hard in life you will be rewarded with great things, just like the area that we live in, the Hunter. We have great farming land, a strong tourism industry, an amazing viticulture industry not to mention having many of the best restaurants in NSW right at our doorstep. We also produce the best coal in Australia that's exported all over the world. All of this comes from the hard work of the Hunters dedicated workforce.
These industries are what I want to continue to build on for the seat of the Hunter as well as many other areas like education, healthcare and lowering the unemployment rate in the area. With more focus on training apprentices to fill the ever-decreasing trades workforce. With the call for more and more renewable energy and diversification, as the coal fired power stations come to the end of their life. The trade sector in the Hunter will need more young and mature age apprentices commencing and finishing their trades to build these evolving industries. While also working towards the target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
I know that many Labor Party members in Hunter are angry right now about the fact they won't get to vote in this preselection. I've heard that from many of you as I've spent the week speaking to Party members to ask for their support.
My family and I have been Labor supporters since I can remember. At the last election, Labor almost lost this seat. I don't want that to happen again. No matter who the candidate is at the end of the national executive vote, I can assure you that I will be working hard to make sure Labor holds this seat and we deliver an Albanese Labor Government.
I am going to spend the coming days continuing to reach out to all party members to hear your thoughts and what we need to do to retain this seat. I look forward to speaking to you soon.
Regards, Dan Repachol OLY