Rising DUP star Carla Lockhart has been selected by the party to fight next year’s Assembly elections in Upper Bann – and it could be at the expense of one of the sitting MLAs, Stephen Moutray or Sydney Anderson.
Ms Lockhart gained more than half the votes from the delegates at Gilford Orange Hall last Thursday night, which guarantees her place on the ballot sheets in May.
Now it’s up to the DUP leadership to decide whether they go with two candidates and drop either of the incumbents – or choose three, with Mr Anderson and Mr Moutray both included. But just two of the trio are likely to make it to the Assembly.
In the last Assembly election in 2011, the DUP went with the current two, with Mr Anderson (5,854 first preferences) and Mr Moutray (5,645) making it on early counts.
In the previous two polls (2007 and 2003) Mr Moutray and David Simpson were elected with three DUP candidates in the fray. Mr Anderson was co-opted to replace Mr Simpson when he decided to focus on Westminster in 2010.
Ms Lockhart earned her spurs in last year’s Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC) District Council poll when she was the only Lurgan candidate to make it on the first court (2,013 votes, comfortably above the 1,438 quota), and Thursday’s whopping vote of confidence came as no surprise.
If the party decides to go with two candidates, Mr Moutray could lose out as Lurgan is his power base, too.
One insider told the Portadown Times: “It’s a dilemma for the constituency, but the final decision will be with the central party.”
It has also emerged that the UUP are definitely going with three candidates – former Royal Irish captain Doug Beattie, who sailed in as a councillor for Portadown in last year’s ABC poll, Jo-Anne Dobson MLA, who made the Assembly last time, and the last mayor of Craigavon, Colin McCusker.
Sam Gardiner MLA, the UUP’s first choice last time and the oldest MLA in the Assembly, will not be standing.
On the nationalist side, Education Minister John O’Dowd MLA has been chosen for Sinn Fein, as has Catherine Seeley, deputy lord mayor of Armagh. And Dolores Kelly, deposed deputy leader of SDLP, is her party’s choice.
ABC councillor David Jones will be Ukip’s candidate.
The six sitting Upper Bann MLAs are John O’Dowd (SF), Sydney Anderson and Stephen Moutray (DUP), Jo-Anne Dobson and Sam Gardiner (UUP) and Dolores Kelly (SDLP).