The seat of South West Coast has sat squarely in Liberal hands since it was formed in 2002, but has its safe seat status sold south-west voters short?
The Standard asked two long-time South West Coast opponents - former Victorian Premier Denis Napthine and four-time runner-up Roy Reekie - to weigh in.
"I don't think there's any doubt about the benefits of making a seat marginal," Mr Reekie said.
"As a lifelong Labor supporter I ran for the first time in 1999 with the goal of loosening the grip of the Liberal party on the South West Coast."
Mr Reekie said he had wanted to "create change" and show voters "they could vote a different way" in the deep blue electorate.
And in the red tide of Steve Bracks' electoral landslide in 2002, along with the amalgamation of the former seats of Portland and Warrnambool into South West Coast, Mr Reekie nearly pipped then-Portland MP Dr Napthine for the seat. Mr Reekie won the primary vote, but lost on preferences 50.7 to 49.3.
"After that the ALP got very interested and there was significant investment into Warrnambool and the south-west, including the biggest ever investment into Lyndoch of $11 million," Mr Reekie said.
Since that first South West Coast election he said no other candidate had come as close. "Somehow we never quite get there with making it marginal, and we miss out," he said.
Mr Reekie is assisting independent candidate Carol Altmann with her campaign, viewing her as the best chance of unseating incumbent Roma Britnell.
He said other large regional centres like Ballarat, Bendigo and even Geelong were consistently more marginal and "got a great share of budgets, much better than we did".
"More recently Mildura and Shepparton elected independent MPs and that allowed them to get more funding than ever before and more funding than we could ever get," he said.
Mr Reekie's three-time vanquisher Dr Napthine said his former opponent's arguments didn't "stack up".
"I think with due respect to my good friend Roy Reekie, he has always been a political player and he'll make comments to suit whatever political angle he is pushing," Dr Napthine said.
"Many of the things that have been delivered in this region were the result of strong local representation and grass roots campaigning. They were delivered to a safe seat, so it's not about marginality."
Dr Napthine singled out emergency helicopter services and Warrnambool's $30 million cancer centre as examples.
"They are fundamental life saving services and I still get stopped by people walking along East Beach saying they or a family member are alive now because of those services," he said.
Dr Napthine said Mr Reekie could "make political debating points, but having a hard-working local member is what counts".
"Marginal seats might get a school painted occasionally but it won't get major projects for your region," he said.
Mildura - which has independent Ali Cupper as its local member - received $36 million in the May state budget for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, while Warrnambool missed out for the fifth year running despite having a more detailed, costed proposal.
Dr Napthine said he didn't "consider the Member for Mildura as an independent, she's Labor dressed up as independent", and her Labor connections had secured the money. But he said that wasn't an argument to vote in a Labor member for South West Coast.
"I think when people weigh it up they would think Roma has been a really active and hardworking local member," he said.
Ms Britnell pointed to $384 million in funding for South West Healthcare, $21.7 million for the Warrnambool and Portland Specialist Development Schools, and a fourth daily V/Line service as key wins over her past term, although her Labor opponent Kylie Gaston also claimed credit for the funding and said it had come from the state Labor government.
Dr Napthine said the road network and train services in the south-west had been "completely ignored", but it was the fault of the Labor government, rather than Ms Britnell. He said Mr Reekie, having deserted Labor, just wanted change.
"Roy is happy with anything that unseats a Liberal MP," he said.
Mr Reekie said change was overdue. "We need a shakeup that questions those existing power structures," he said.
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