LIBERAL Party infighting appears to be dampening the preselection race on the Bellarine.
Just days after raising serious concerns of “unethical” branch poaching, Portarlington-St Leonards branch chair Peter Groves has reportedly been asked to stand down.
It is also understood Bellarine State Electoral Conference’s (SEC) executive member John Gillett has resigned from his position.
Yesterday, Mr Groves would not say whether he’d been asked to step down from his position by Bellarine SEC chair Charles Henry.
“I’m not going to answer that,” Mr Groves said.
“I don’t want to be implicated, because it’s gone far enough. I’m still president of the Portarlington branch.
“I’m not a person to take a backwards step, and I will be pushing forward as if nothing is happening.”
Last week the Geelong Advertiser obtained a copy of a letter to Mr Henry, signed off by Mr Groves and the Portarlington and St Leonards branch, raising serious concerns Helen Whiteside had contacted members, asking them to move their membership to the North Bellarine branch and vote for her during preselection.
Ms Whiteside, a former Glen Eira mayor and Liberal Party stalwart, is understood to be likely to put her hand up for preselection to stand for the Labor-held seat of Bellarine.
In a response to the letter, seen by the Addy, Mr Henry said suggesting members change branches was “to be discouraged”, and called for unity between the local branches.
The Geelong Advertiser was unable to contact Mr Gillett yesterday.
The preselection process for Liberal candidates to contest the seats of Geelong and Bellarine in November’s state election was opened earlier this month.
Ms Whiteside and Surf Coast policeman and councillor Brian McKiterick are understood to be in the mix for preselection in Bellarine — where they would run against Labor’s police minister Lisa Neville.
Ms Neville won the 2014 state election with 54.84 per cent of the two-party preferred vote.