A replacement is yet to be found for Tony Nutt who has quit as NSW Liberal director. Photo: Jessica HromasWeeks after respected veteran Tony Nutt quit as NSW Liberal director to run the federal division, the party is preparing to settle on a replacement, with a cast of identities said to be in the running for the $350,000 a year job.
A push to install Premier Mike Baird’s director of strategy, Nigel Blunden, has failed after Mr Blunden knocked back the offer.
But the party has once again approached Scott Briggs, who it unsuccessfully tried to draft into the position in 2013 after then state director Mark Neeham quit to join strategy and lobbying firm Crosby Textor.
Mr Briggs – a former deputy state director and television executive with experience at the Nine Network and Fox Sports – is said to be Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s preferred candidate.
Mr Briggs was previously an advisor to Turnbull and Partners, the investment vehicle founded by the Prime Minister.
Other potential candidates include Chris Hall, chief-of-staff to trade minister Stuart Ayres and Jaymes Boland-Rudder, who was deputy chief of staff to former Premier Barry O’Farrell before leaving to join the National Rugby League.
Paul Ritchie – a staffer to former Prime Minister Tony Abbott – is also being discussed as is Bran Black, chief of staff to NSW environment minister Mark Speakman and a former general counsel for the state division.
Another name being mentioned is Simon Berger, the former director of government relations for Woolworths, who tendered his resignation after emceeing Alan Jones’ infamous “died of shame” speech about the former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
Also being considered is the option of poaching a director from another state branch.
Party insiders say a deadline of the end of February has been set to settle on a candidate as a federal election looms in the foreground for the coming year.
The search is being conducted by a select committee of the party’s state executive, which will be chaired by newly elected federal MP and NSW party president, Trent Zimmerman.
Mr Nutt, is also serving in a key role on that committee, as are representatives for the Premier and the Prime Minister.
The committee will report back to the full state executive with a suggested candidate for approval.