Former mayor and longtime Liberal member Felicity Frederico is set to run against the party as an independent candidate in the marginal seat of Brighton at the Victorian state election, having failed to be preselected as a candidate on several occasions.
The consultant, local football league director and Medal of the Order of Australia recipient is set to announce she will run against Liberal party MP James Newbury, who holds the seat with a razor-thin 1.1% margin.
Frederico, a former Bayside mayor, quit the Liberals in May after 17 years, having grown frustrated by her inability to drive change from within the party.
“The party I left was not the party I joined,” she told Guardian Australia.
“You can’t say I didn’t try. I stood for preselection for the Liberals twice in Brighton and once in [the neighbouring seat of] Sandringham. I grew up in the area, I have spent two decades volunteering in my community but it wasn’t enough.”
Frederico ran for preselection in Brighton and Sandringham in 2016. According to media reports, she formally complained to the party about alleged bullying and a physical assault by a male party member from an opposing faction (who has since died) in the years and months leading up to the preselection ballots.
She made a final tilt for Brighton in December last year but received about half the votes of Newbury.
Frederico said she has received a “huge amount” of support from the community – including members of the Liberal party – to stand as an independent.
“So many people told me, ‘Don’t give up. We still need representation that actively listens and represents us, that is connected and engaged with the community,’” she said. “It’s been incredibly encouraging.”
Frederico has the backing of the Bayside Independent group, which splintered from Voices of Goldstein, the group which helped MP Zoe Daniel win the federal seat from Liberal MP Tim Wilson.
Independents are running in the neighbouring seats of Caulfield and Sandringham, which overlap with Goldstein.
But unlike independents running in those two seats, Frederico said she doesn’t define herself as a “teal”, and will be opting for “bay blue” during the campaign, a colour not dissimilar to that of Mackellar’s independent MP, Sophie Scamps.
She said she will run on a platform of “integrity, trust and respect” and campaign on local issues, including better heritage planning processes and greater protection for the local environment, including at Port Phillip Bay, where she swims each morning.
“There are 15 or more statutory authorities making decisions on the bay,” Frederico said. “They each deal with marine life, water quality, sea level and infrastructure separately. We need better coordination there because it’s not at its peak.”
She said the electorate, which takes in the affluent suburb of Brighton as well as Elwood, Hampton and parts of Brighton East, had been misjudged by the Liberal party.
“In 2018, they campaigned on the closure of a homeless shelter on South Road and thought that would work but it did not resonate with the electorate. Neither did the tough on crime rhetoric,” Frederico said, pointing to the 8.7% swing Newbury suffered at the election.
An electoral redistribution ahead of the November election will see Newbury’s margin shrink further, to 0.5%, based on the 2018 result.
In an attempt to stave off the threat of an independent, the Liberals have pledged a new police station shop front in Brighton, $10m for the development of a comprehensive erosion plan for Port Phillip Bay, $9m for works at Brighton Primary School and $7.7m for Hampton Primary School.