Queanbeyan author and historian Nichole Overall has been selected - uncontested - to be the National Party's candidate in the byelection for Monaro, hoping to replace outgoing member and former Nationals leader and NSW deputy premier John Barilaro.
If elected, she would be the first woman member of Monaro in its 165-year history.
As flagged by The Canberra Times this week, Mrs Overall has for some time been courted to make a tilt for NSW Parliament and the revelation of her husband Tim's retirement as the long-running mayor of Queanbeyan-Palerang was thought to be confirmation an announcement on her political future was imminent.
"I can't deny it's been a whirlwind week," she said.
Mrs Overall on Saturday confirmed her candidacy in Queanbeyan, the as-yet unscheduled byelection for the southern NSW seat of Monaro necessary after Mr Barilaro earlier this month announced he was leaving State Parliament.
Mrs Overall said she had been considering standing for State Parliament in 2023 but the resignation of Mr Barilaro had brought that intention forward and she had decided to "seize the day".
"I'm honoured to be preselected today for the Nationals," she said.
"I truly believe the Nationals are the party that are the closest to the people. They are grassroots. They are about the community. It's what I have always been about myself."
Mrs Overall stood for preselection unopposed but her candidacy still went to the vote of the Nationals' grassroots members, which was held virtually on Saturday, due to the restrictions of COVID.
The announcement was made alongside Deputy Premier Paul Toole and Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor in Queanbeyan, the heart of the electorate, which spans from Captains Flat and Braidwood, down to the Snowy Mountains.
Mr Toole said Mrs Overall would be an energetic and passionate member, saying she was "a straight-shooter".
"She's someone who has been very strong in the community for a number of decades," he said.
"... I couldn't ask for a better candidate."
Mr Barilaro was not present at the announcement but Mr Toole said he "100 per cent" endorsed Mrs Overall as the Nationals' candidate.
"He rang me this morning and told me, 'Absolutely'," Mr Toole said.
Mrs Overall said her focus would be on helping the region emerge from the COVID pandemic and its continuing recovery from the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires.
As the wife of Tim Overall, who has been mayor of Queanbeyan for 13 years, before announcing this week he would not be contesting the December local government elections, Mrs Overall has built a high profile in the local area. But she is also well-known for her strong advocacy of Queanbeyan, particularly its history and relevance to the region, including the formation of the neighbouring national capital.
Mrs Overall said the commitment to the job of state member was not lost on her, after seeing her husband in local government for 17 years.
"Our sons, now 24 and 22, have virtually known little else but their dad being a local representative. So, yes, that was definitely a consideration," she said.
"But I think the other thing that helped make up my mind is that I'm going into this wide-eyed. I'm not naive, I'm not aware of the difficulties, the challenges, the workload. And, of course, it's another level. Tim worked incredibly hard for Queanbeyan-Palerang over all these years. We're talking about stepping that up as well.
"I can say he has been supporting me and egging me on to make this sort of years for a number of years now."
When asked by a reporter if she was worried that Mr Barilaro had "irritated a lot of people", Mrs Overall said she could only worry about what she could do for the electorate.
She also said being possibly the first female member of Monaro would "personally be quite an amazing thing".
"With an historian's background, it would be absolutely tremendous," she said, adding the National Party had a good track record on female representation.
"We've had a federal womens' council for almost 60 years. The most high-profile positions in the party have been held by women," she said.
While it has existed since 1856, Monaro, in its latest incarnation, since 1927, has swung between Labor and conservative parties.
It has been held by the National Party and Mr Barilaro for a decade. Labor's Steve Whan held it for eight years until 2011. Other high-profile members include the Nationals' Peter Cochrane (1988-99) and Peter Webb (1999-2003).
Mrs Overall said John Barilaro had set up the seat for a conservative win, going from scraping in in 2011, to creating an almost 12 per cent margin for the Nationals.
"The last election, he won every booth across the electorate of Monaro. So that is an extraordinary testament to the work he has done, that the National Party has invested in this seat and the support that is continuing to emerge for me to hopefully continue that legacy," she said.
The Overalls' two sons who attended St Edmund's College in Canberra and Mrs Overall is the current chair of the St Edmund's College Canberra Advisory Council.
On Saturday, Mr Overall said he was very excited for his wife.
"And very excited for the electorate of Monaro," he said.
"She's going to be a terrific candidate and a wonderful parliamentarian and representative."
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