The resignation of Ann Sudmalis as the Federal Member for Gilmore not only caused waves for the Liberal Party in choosing their candidate, but created the opportunity for the Nationals to also field a candidate for the marginal seat.
It is an opportunity that has lured former State politician Katrina Hodgkinson back into politics after taking 18 months off to focus on her family.
A redistribution had stretched her electorate further west, meaning she had to spend too much time away from home.
“It just wasn’t working, and I needed to take time off,” she says.
Having regrouped, and with the encouragement of her family, she jumped at the chance of running in Gilmore.
“It is a natural fit for the Nationals,” she says.
“Like other National Party constituencies, it is a series of towns and villages all with their own communities and different issues and character.
“It has its own unique challenges and I think it would be well represented by a person with a track record of helping regional communities.
“I loved being a member of parliament, and I love community work.”
There is no doubting Ms Hodgkinson’s political experience. She worked as a ministerial advisor for Senator Nick Minchin for three years before winning the State seat of Burrinjuck in 1999 when she was just 33.
She became a Shadow Minister in 2003, after spending four years on the Public Accounts Committee, with responsibility for a diverse range of portfolios.
When the Coalition came to power in 2011, she was made Minister for Primary Industries and Small Business, and the first Parliamentary Secretary for Southern NSW.
Through these roles, Ms Hodgkinson already knows many community and business leaders, including Kiama Mayor Mark Honey.
She says even when she was a minister, she was a local member first. Her loyalty to her electorate saw her cross the floor on the vote about the ban on greyhound racing, and consequently lose her cabinet position.
“It was going to a significant effect on my community. The Government were looking to abolish an industry with the stroke of a pen, without consulting the community and using flawed reasoning. I had to take a stand.”
She believes strongly in the important role of being an involved local member.
“It is the bread and butter stuff that I love doing the most.
“People don’t often realise what their local member of parliament can actually do for them.
“I believe the local MP should be the first port of call rather than the last,
particularly with things that are really impacting on people’s lives.”
Having lived in Berrima for over 20 years, Ms Hodgkinson says her whole family is enjoying moving to the coast.
“My husband is from Sassafras, and is one of twelve children. It’s great being part of such a big family down here.”
Compared to the 48,000 sq kilometres of her last electorate, Gilmore’s mere 6300 sq kilometres seems very doable.
“I have spent so much time in this area, both with business and due to ministerial duties, that I already know its issues well.”
With 130,000 voters, well above the preferred 100,000 electorate size, it is likely a redistribution will occur before the Federal election after this one.