THE Northern Territory’s political leaders have vowed to treat Katherine as an electoral battleground at the next NT poll.
NT Opposition leader Garry Higgins said he was “hopeful” of wresting back Katherine after the shock loss to Labor in August.
But Mr Higgins said other CLP members thought Katherine would be one of the first to fall back into the fold come 2020.
Katherine was the bluest of blue safe CLP seats until Adam Giles’ CLP spectacularly unravelled in August.
Sandra Nelson became the first Labor MLA for Katherine in its history to win but only narrowly dislodged the sitting Willem Westra van Holthe.
Mr Higgins was in Katherine this week meeting with CLP branch members who he said were determined to win the seat back.
“There are seven seats with less than 155 votes in it, we are hopeful of winning some of those back,” he said.
The reality is for the CLP that unless Michael Gunner’s ALP shoots itself in the foot, which it seems unlikely to do, with such an overwhelming majority he would be assured of a second term at least.
As Mr Gunner said in Katherine on Thursday night, he wants more than a second term, he wants a third and a fourth.
Mr Higgins said despite the loss of Katherine, local CLP membership was up.
He said the branch was now “positioning itself” ready to select a candidate able to win the seat back.
“Membership is up, perhaps because people got so much a shock and they’re not happy with the change.
“We now have a great opportunity to make a lot of changes.
“We have time to consider what sort of candidate do we want.
“For now our job is to promote the party not a member, it is strange for sure, we have never been in this position here before.”
Mr Gunner shrugged off the CLP’s focus on Katherine.
“Our job is to give people every reason to vote for us again at the next election,” Mr Gunner said.
“That‘s what we are focused on in Katherine and the rest of the NT.”