Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mayor race: Eddie McGuire says no, but Jeff Kennet might say yes

EDDIE McGuire has turned down an approach to run for lord mayor but Jeff Kennett is considering a tilt at the job.

"I think the city is ready for a change," the former premier said last night.

The speculation has raised doubts about Lord Mayor John So's chances of a third term.

Mr McGuire was asked to run Melbourne by powerful interests concerned the city is losing its way under Cr So.

The Collingwood boss and TV star met Cr So in private last week.

It is believed Cr So has previously flirted with backing Mr McGuire for the job.

Mr McGuire told the Herald Sun he was too busy to be lord mayor.

But Mr Kennett said he was considering running in the November 29 poll.

Mr Kennett said he would not decide until the "death knell" but he had been approached by a "range of interests".

"In any job these days at the top, I think things change very quickly and you need to keep - in the interests of the community you serve - introducing fresh blood," he said.

Mr Kennett recently announced he would step down as chairman of the national depression initiative beyondblue in 2010.

The Hawthorn football club chairman said he would look to join another cause after he left.

Cr So refused to comment last night.

He is believed to be planning a trip to Beijing and is tipped to reveal his plans on his return.

Cr Fiona Snedden yesterday urged Mr Kennett to run for lord mayor.

"I reckon Jeff would be a great mayor. He would show great leadership and vision," Cr Snedden said.

Coalition of Residents and Business Associations spokesman Kevin Chamberlin said Cr So should go.

"The Melbourne City Council has never been in such disarray at both a political and administrative level," he said.

"We believe it's time for John and the council members to all move on."

Two other councillors, Peter Clarke and Gary Singer, are also considering running.

Cr So's meeting with Mr McGuire added to speculation that he would stand down rather than risk defeat.

But he kept his options open, conducting a ring-around recently to determine whether the ALP would back a candidate in the poll.

The Herald Sun believes the ALP is unlikely to back a candidate for mayor.

Under electoral laws, candidates must be nominated at least 32 days before polling day, which would give Mr Kennett until late October to nominate.

The lord mayor is elected directly by ratepayers.

Cr So is a two-time lord mayor whose infectious laugh and broken English made him a popular figure.

But his second term has been marked by discontent among ratepayer groups.

One observer said Cr So had been showing signs of stress as the gloss has been stripped from his public image.

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