Clarke Martin, a former suburban mayor, is set to make a third tilt as an independent for the seat of Sandringham at the Victorian election, with the backing of a group that successfully campaigned for “teal” federal MP Zoe Daniel.
Martin, a serving councillor at Bayside city council, announced on Thursday he will run as an independent against Liberal party MP Brad Rowswell, who holds the seat with a 0.65% margin.
His campaign will run with the backing of the Bayside Independent group, which splintered from the Voices of Goldstein, which helped Daniel win the federal seat off the Liberal party.
Martin previously ran at the 2014 and 2018 state elections as part of the Make Bayside Better campaign to save the Beaumaris campus of Sandringham college, which had announced it would stop enrolling year seven students in 2013.
At the 2014 election, the Coalition government at the time rejected a proposal to turn the Beaumaris campus into a stand-alone school.
“I had my two boys signed up to go to the school,” he said. “I’ll never forget being at year six orientation, being told they weren’t going to [be] able to enrol. The room just exploded with emotions. People were crying, yelling.
“The local member at the time was a minister in the government but it was clear he wasn’t listening to his community, so we ran a campaign and won more than 10.8% of primary votes.”
The Reserve Road campus was reopened as a stand-alone secondary school in 2018 and has received around $45m in government funding.
In the 2018 election, in a larger field of candidates, Martin received about 8.45% of the primary vote. The Liberal party retained the seat but its margin was reduced from 7.3% to 0.65%.
Following a redistribution before the November election, the margin is set to shrink further, to 0.4%, based on the 2018 result.
Martin said he would continue to campaign for better public education, responsible development and better protection of the local environment, including at Port Phillip Bay.
“The coastal communities of the bay are at threat and you only have to look at Lismore to see what can happen if a superstorm [occurs],” he said. “We’re no different position.
“There’s a lot of talk about rising sea levels but there doesn’t appear to be any real discussion or planning about adapting our very vulnerable coastal communities to the new weather patterns that we’re facing.”
The symbol of Make Bayside Better is a yellow ribbon, after hundreds were tied to the fence of the Beaumaris school campus when its closure was announced.
But Martin said he’s happy to be considered a teal candidate, following their success at the May federal election.
“Our group is definitely aligned to the type of issues that they campaigned on, like gender equity, climate change and integrity,” he said.
“There’s a lot of very enthusiastic people talking about what independents can do, there’s been a real awakening.
“The vibe is very different to 2018.”
In an attempt to stave off the threat of an independent, the Coalition has announced $25m for an upgrade of the Sandringham hospital, $10m for the development of a comprehensive erosion plan for Port Phillip Bay and the removal of the Highett Road and Wickham Road level crossings.
But Martin said the Liberal party continues to take the seat for granted.
“I don’t want to have a fight with Liberals, I don’t do politics that way. We were just doing a community campaign and putting forward a different way of being governed than the current way that’s happened here for decades,” he said.
“We pretty much don’t hear anything until two or three months before an election.”