EXCLUSIVE: The NT Independent can reveal a “secret candidate” rumored to be running for the Country Liberal Party’s Port Darwin preselection is NT Cattlemen’s Association CEO Ashley Manicaros.
It’s understood Mr Manicaros, a former journalist and CLP advisor, has put his name forward for preselection this weekend for the CLP Darwin branch panel to vote on – but that it was to remain a secret.
It’s unclear what effect his decision to run could have on his current position.
He will be running against developer Sara Alexopoulos and project director Toby George.
When contacted, Mr Manicaros would neither confirm nor deny that he’s running.
“It’s speculation,” he said.
But the Independent has confirmed from a variety of party sources that his preselection paperwork was filed on Monday before deadline.
Mr Manicaros has been described by some in the party as “having a lot of baggage”. He also worked for the City of Darwin in the early 2000s.
Mr Manicaros was named CEO of the NT Cattlemen’s Association in 2018.
It’s a powerful industry job that requires the boss to stay bipartisan and being outed as a potential CLP candidate could impact the position. It’s understood Mr Manicaros secured the five party members’ endorsements to run, but instructed that his name was not to be released unless he was victorious.
Ms Alexopoulos said on Tuesday that she is in for a good fight against Mr Manicaros for the preselection.
“It’s bad news for me, he’s a formidable candidate,” she said. “He’s very experienced and has the credentials.”
Mr Manicaros has been a vocal supporter of onshore gas development and has publicly sparred with anti-frackers in the past.
Darwin lawyer Rose Watts had become the CLP’s endorsed candidate for Port Darwin in February, but surprised political observers by dropping out less than a month later.
CLP president Ron Kelly said at the time that she had resigned for “personal reasons”.
The February by-election in Johnston saw the CLP only muster 16 per cent of primary votes, down by half attributed mostly to the fledgling Territory Alliance appearing to have taken that support.