Victoria state election: former political journalist Carol Altmann seeks to ride ‘teal’ wave

·3 min read

A former political journalist will run as an independent candidate in Victoria’s November election in the Liberal-held marginal seat of South-West Coast, in an attempt to leverage the “teal” wave that dislodged Coalition candidates at the federal election.

Carol Altmann, a Warrnambool-based independent journalist, will challenge lower house Liberal MP Roma Britnell, who holds the seat on a margin of 3.2%, after a redrawing of electoral boundaries.

The seat sits within the federal seat of Wannon, where Liberal MP Dan Tehan suffered a swing of more than 6% after the campaign of teal independent candidate Alex Dyson at May’s federal election.

Altmann, 57, told Guardian Australia she had drawn inspiration from Cathy McGowan , the former federal independent MP for the rural Victorian seat of Indi, after growing a following through her local independent publication, the Terrier.

Related: Nomi Kaltmann announced as the first ‘teal’ candidate selected to run in Victorian election

“That kind of community grassroots activism – that is now forming the basis of the teals – was really what I’d been doing here for nine years,” she said.

“But I’m different because … a lot of the [teal] candidates are coming out of other political backgrounds.”

Altmann – who was born in Warrnambool and had covered South Australian politics for News Corp – launched her campaign 100 days before November’s state election.

She said she was open to funding from fundraising group Climate 200, which had backed teal candidates at the federal election.

The executive director of Climate 200, Byron Fay, said there was “significant” potential for an independent campaign to be “competitive” in the South-West Coast electorate.

“Alex Dyson ran an incredible grassroots community campaign in his bid to become the federal member for Wannon and came within a few thousand votes of winning,” Fay said.

“Voters in the western districts are clearly looking for a different type of more meaningful political representation.”

Altmann said Dyson’s campaign demonstrated “demographic change” with more millennial voters elevating climate change as an issue.

“It showed that this electorate can no longer be taken for granted,” she said.

She said she would run her campaign on community, integrity in politics and climate action, including expanding renewable energy opportunities in the region.

“I’d like to be able to become that bridge between this amazing opportunity to develop renewables but to make sure that the community is included in the process along the way,” she said.

Altmann said housing affordability and stability, and the barriers for youth access to mental health services, were issues she hoped to tackle in her electorate.

She said her experience as an independent journalist included discovering integrity scandals such as the use of credit cards within Warrnambool city council that resulted in a report by the Victorian Ombudsman, Deborah Glass.

Kos Samaras, a former Labor strategist turned pollster who conducted research for Climate 200 at the federal election, said the Liberal-held seat could flip and become independent.

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“Like most parts of regional Victoria, there is a growing appetite for independent candidates,” he said.

Kylie Gaston, a former Warrnambool mayor, will run as Labor’s candidate in the seat.

Altmann’s candidacy comes after lawyer and journalist Nomi Kaltmann announced Tuesday she would run as an independent community-backed candidate for the seat of Caulfield, in Melbourne’s south-east. She was selected by the newly formed Voices of Caulfield group, and the seat is held by the deputy Liberal leader, David Southwick, on a razor-thin 0.1% margin.

South-West Coast was created as an electorate in 2002 and has been represented by the Liberals since inception. It was held by former Liberal premier Denis Napthine between 2002 and 2015.

The state opposition hold just 27 seats from a total of 88 in the lower house – after the Andrews government’s landslide victory at the 2018 election.