Five aspiring Upper Bann MLAs are in the frame for the Ulster Unionists at next year’s Assembly elections, the Portadown Times has learned.
Party delegates in the constituency will meet next week to choose their top four candidates.
The five in the hat include sitting MLAs Jo-Anne Dobson and Sam Gardiner, the Lurgan-based veteran who topped the UUP poll here the last time round.
Craigavon’s last Mayor, Councillor Colin McCusker, who narrowly missed out to Mrs Dobson in the 2011 poll, will also be among the names up for selection.
Councillor Doug Beattie, the former Army captain who won the Military Cross for his bravery in Afghanistan, will also be submitting his name. He is highly fancied to make the final selection, having soared into the ABC Council last year on his first sortie into politics.
The field is completed by Kyle Savage, the son of the respected late former councillor and assembly member George Savage. Savage Junior was co-opted to his father’s council seat when George passed away.
After local members choose the top four names, these will go forward to the party headquarters leadership in Belfast, where the final choice will be made.
If the 18 Northern Ireland constituencies remain at six seats, it is expected that the party will go with three preferred candidates in Upper Bann.
A source close to the selection procedure said it was likely that Mrs Dobson, Mr McCusker and Mr Beattie would make it through the first stage of the process. Mr Savage is tipped to be number four, but he will probably fall at the final selection hurdle.
Next year’s election promises to be fiercely contested. Sinn Fein have already revealed that Education Minister John O’Dowd will run again, alongside Catherine Seeley, who impressed as the party’s Westminster candidate earlier this year.
The DUP have not shown their hand, but Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson will probably run again.