“I’m fiercely independent, I don’t need anyone to tap me on the shoulder,” he said.
“I made my own decision to run. I didn’t need encouragement. It’s nice to have support, but what matters most is community support.”
Mr Constance, who entered NSW Parliament in 2003, said he would resign as Transport Minister this week, and as the member for Bega by the end of the year, sparking a second byelection for the state government. Ms Berejiklian will also quit Parliament, forcing a byelection in her safe north shore seat of Willoughby.
Mr Constance said he was “heartbroken” by the snap resignation of Ms Berejiklian who will be the subject of an ICAC inquiry this month.
First-time Labor MP Fiona Phillips won the marginal seat of Gilmore with a 3 per cent swing at the 2019 election, when she fought a four-cornered contest against two Coalition candidates and a jilted independent.
Ms Phillips said she wasn’t concerned who the Liberal candidate would be.
“I don’t think it matters who the Liberal candidate is for Gilmore. I’ve seen it all before. People of Gilmore have seen some of the toughest times over the last few years, with droughts, bushfires, floods, and now COVID,” she said.
“They just want a local MP that gets on and supports people and that is what I will continue to do.”
Labor hold Gilmore with a 2.6 per cent margin after wrestling the seat from the Liberals for the first time since 1996.
Mr Constance shot to national attention when he delivered a scathing assessment of the Prime Minister’s leadership during the 2019/20 summer bushfires, saying Scott Morrison had received “the welcome he probably deserved” when Cobargo locals heckled him after he arrived to survey the damage.
Since the bushfires, Mr Constance has been outspoken on the need for government action to address climate change, and pursued a number of policies including converting Sydney’s train network to renewable energy.
The 47-year-old has long considered a move to Canberra, having last year announced his intention to run for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro before quickly pulling out of the race amid an internal spat with Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
The former Young Liberal president arrived at Macquarie Street in March 2003, the same month as Ms Berejiklian, who remained a close friend as the pair rose through the ranks.
A contested Liberal preselection ended in the NSW Liberal party parachuting in former Labor national secretary Warren Mundine to stand as its candidate. The Liberal executive overturned the candidate selected by local branches, Alby Schultz, who stood as an independent.
Former NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson contested the election for the Nationals.
With Mike Foley
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