Strelow: Why I'm risking it all on this massive gamble
UPDATE, 2.10PM: JUST when we thought the state election campaign couldn't get any more dramatic, today Margaret Strelow is no longer Mayor of Rockhampton or a member of her beloved Labor Party.
Speaking at a noon press conference next to the Fitzroy River on Quay St, Ms Strelow said Rockhampton's support had been "taken for for granted” by state parliament and the time was right to nominate as an independent candidate for the seat of Rockhampton in the Queensland election .
"I have a track record of delivering for this community, I know our issues, I understand our opportunities and this is a totally pivotal time for us,” Ms Strelow said.
"It's really important that we have a strong voice into what is likely to be a parliament that is a mixture of bits and pieces and I am determined that we need someone who can take our messages to Brisbane.”
After a frustrating week watching other candidates discussing issues for the city she regarded as not being "overly relevant” and spending a weekend soul searching, Ms Strelow decided to throw her hat into the ring as an Independent.
"I think this has been building for a little while, as you know I've certainly had aspirations to move to state parliament,” she said.
"After a week of watching and looking at the campaigns being discussed and the objectives that are being put forward by the various parties and feeling as though nobody actually had a heart for the things that matter to us.”
She commended the LNP on funding Rookwood but said CQ had many other issues that needed to be spoken about on the floor of parliament by someone who was able to clearly enunciate what matters to the people of Rockhampton and not undo the good work that had been done already.
Some of the issues Ms Strelow said needed to be on CQ's election agenda was a high school in Gracemere, support for the continuing growth of the innovation precinct and creating a situation where Rockhampton had a significant place in everybody's thinking.
"It's time that Rockhampton had a strong independent voice, that we got the sort of attention that we should have had, that we need to have, if we are to grow and to become the strong capital for Central Queensland that we need to be,” Ms Strelow said.
"I'm not wanting to be in a position where we sit and watch the prizes go to other regional cities, it's time for Rockhampton to step forward, for our story to be told and for us to get the attention from other levels of government that we need.”
Ms Strelow admitted that decision to go against the political party she had always ideologically aligned herself with, had nothing to do with the recent pre-selection battle nor had it come easily.
She said it was "a matter of conscience” and a "gut feeling” why she had to do it.
"I appreciate that this is going to mean that I'm going to be expelled from the Labor Party, so it's a very weighty decision for me but my priority has always been my community and I am committed to always putting Rockhampton first,” Ms Strelow said.
By competing against the Labor Party, she acknowledged there was the possibility of splitting the Labor vote which could hand the seat to the LNP or One Nation but with compulsory preferential voting "all bets are off”.
"I'm out here to win this, it may well be a balance of power seat and it needs someone who can exercise that well,” she said.
Like all previous election campaigns, Ms Strelow said she planned on self-funding her election campaign rather than taking up Rockhampton businessman Dominic Doblo's financial offer of $50,000 for an independent candidate to run against the major parties.
Ms Strelow admitted she had stepped down as Mayor a half an hour previously leaving the council to scramble to find a replacement in the absence of Deputy Mayor Cherie Rutherford, who was currently overseas.
"I am no longer in that (mayoral) position until the results of this ballot are determined,” she said.
"Council will meet tomorrow and appoint an acting mayor.”
The Morning Bulletin expects a statement shortly from the Rockhampton Regional Council regarding the ramifications of Ms Strelow's decision to step down.
UPDATE: MAYOR Margaret Strelow says would be a "strong voice” for Rockhampton in what promises to be a "dog's breakfast of a parliament”.
Cr Strelow is currently addressing media about her bombshell election move to stand as an Independent for Rockhampton in the November 25 poll.
She says it will be a tough fight.
"I am announcing today that I have nominated to contest this coming state election as an Independent candidate for Rockhampton,” Cr Strelow said outside Custom's House.
"This is an absolutely pivitol time in our story and the stakes could not be higher.
"I believe that I have both the experience and the understanding of our community to allow me to do that job well.
"My passion and commitment to the city of Rockhampton and to the Gracemere community is well known and I have a proven track record of delivering.
"I believe as an Independent I can achieve the best for Rockhampton.
"As an Independent I will be able to put Rocky's interests first.
"I am already across both the issues that are impacting us and the opportunities that are waiting for us.
"I believe as your state represtentative I will be able to achieve the best for our region.
"I believe we need a strong voice that can cut through in what is likely to be a dog's breakfast of a parliament.
"We need strong representation for our community.
"This will be a tough fight but I want the best for Rockhampton, please support me.”
BREAKING: ALWAYS the bridesmaid but never the bride, Rockhampton Mayor Margaret Strelow has taken matters into her own hands.
Mayor Strelow is set to drop the biggest bombshell yet of this tumultuous state election campaign by declaring herself as an Independent to contest the seat of Rockhampton at a noon press conference at Customs House today.
With her opportunities to take the next step fast running out, Cr Strelow's latest political manoeuvre threatens to throw the race for Rockhampton wide open.
After a number of failed attempts to win pre-selection races for the Labor Party to represent Central Queensland in federal and state election campaigns over the years, Cr Strelow's move was one borne out of frustration with party power-brokers and factional alliances who have thwarted her continued attempts to ascend to the next level in her political career.
The latest of these was the battle for Labor pre-selection, for Rockhampton.
Cr Strelow, with the backing of the right faction and the endorsement of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk didn't have the numbers to overcome Labor's Old Guard faction and union backed choice - Queensland public housing boss Barry O'Rourke.
As a self styled everyday man, Mr O'Rourke is an inexperienced political candidate who is now up against a formidable opponent in Cr Strelow who is serving her fourth term as Mayor.
The move has the potential to split the Labor voting base in the normally safe "Labor stronghold”.
In the last two state elections, Labor won with 53 per cent in 2015 and 40 per cent in 2012, Liberals brought in 30 per cent in both elections and a resurgent One Nation is only slightly less popular than they were 20 years ago when they secured 25 per cent of the vote.
The Morning Bulletin has previously reported Rockhampton businessman Dominic Doblo offered $50,000 in political funding to back a worthy independent to run in the state election representing Central Queensland's interests rather than toeing the line of the major political parties.
Although Cr Strelow had only reaffirmed her commitment to Rockhampton's Regional Council two weeks ago, it is set to be thrown again with the unexpected news of the Mayor stepping aside from her role to contest the state election.
Deputy Mayor Cherie Rutherford is expected to step into the Mayor's shoes while council awaits the election result and if Cr Strelow was to win the seat, it will force a by-election where a number of councillors are expected to vie for the top job.