By Michael DiFarbrizio

FORMER federal election candidate Jason Modica will be sitting back and watching this year’s contest for Mallee with interest.

The Mildura deputy mayor, who ran as an independent at the 2019 poll, said those vying for the seat would be covering plenty of ground making their way around the 83,000 sq km electorate.

Cr Modica, PICTURED, noted Mallee spanned 12 local government areas, more than 65 towns and regions with different cultures.

He said this was evident at the last election, when he polled a 9 per cent share of first preference votes in a crowded field of 13 candidates.

“I did very well in Mildura because I was all over the water issues, but get 100km off the river, you’ve got a different version (of the main issues),” he said.

“Swan Hill is more mixed with stone fruit rather than vines, you go across to Horsham or west Wimmera and you’ve got a whole different array of topics as well.

“Go down to Edenhope and Kaniva … Edenhope is 290km from Warrnambool and 406km from Mildura.”

Cr Modica said his team spent about $70,000 running last time and “to keep your energy levels up, to keep your funding up, to have a representative in each town, is very, very difficult”.

A fellow candidate mentioned they had travelled 18,000km in less than 12 weeks.

Cr Modica said the challenge as an independent of not being known across the electorate was one area the National Party, who have never lost the seat, have an advantage.

But he believed an independent could eventually win Mallee, pointing to Ali Cupper’s success winning in the state electorate of Mildura.

“Both parties have a lot of work to do, particularly with the way they use taxation funding in certain electorates to get people across the line,” he said.

“To change how we think about politics means maybe there’s a certain amount of money every state government gets and a municipality gets, on size and population, not political needs first.”

He also believed how people approached politics in Mallee was shifting.

“I think the Mallee struggles with a little bit with not understanding how deeply you can have a debate in a frank and fearless way, rather than just believing it’s always been done this way,” he said.

“I think (change) is happening by the number of candidates that stood last time.”

Cr Modica did consider contesting this year’s election but ultimately opted against another campaign.

“On the back of five huge years of local government and running last time, I needed to take the foot off the accelerator,” he said.

“It was a huge year as mayor last year and now the new leadership role, with the consideration of family − young-ish kids, early teens − I just thought that’s not the right time this time.”