NATIONAL Party blueblood Melinda Pavey has emerged as leading contender in the preselection battle to replace former Leader and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner in the NSW electorate of Oxley.
The Coffs Harbour-based MLC was known to be seeking a transfer to the Lower House after being picked for the almost unwinnable fifth position on the party's ticket for the March 28 election.
She was endorsed as a candidate by the Bellingen branch this week.
Ms Pavey entered the Upper House in 2002 and is currently the Parliamentary Secretary for Regional and Rural Health.
Also on the early nomination list are premiership-winning Mid North Coast Rugby coach Marc Minor, Kempsey solicitor Kevin Henshaw and Port Macquarie-Hastings councillor Adam Roberts.
The NSW Nationals State Director, Ben Franklin, said the successful candidate will be announced following a meeting on December 13.
"NSW Nationals have started the process and traditionally this involves a call for nominations and then a meeting of all members in the area who have been in the party for at least six months," he said.
"Each of these members is then allowed to cast a ballot for their preferred candidate.
"This is a very democratic and proven way to select strong candidates who have the potential to be effective community advocates.
"The party has opted for a traditional preselection in Oxley although there was a discussion about conducting a community preselection."