Polwarth MP Richard Riordan has aborted his bid for Victorian Liberal leader just two days after throwing his hat in the ring.
He said he'd advised colleagues he would be backing Berwick MP Brad Battin for the top job while leaving his own hand up for deputy.
The leadership race has been whittled down to a two-horse race between Mr Battin and the narrowly resurrected Hawthorn MP John Pesutto.
Mr Riordan said it had become clear the party was looking for a Melbourne-based leader and Mr Battin was the candidate whose views best aligned with his own.
"Brad and I broadly agree on where the party needs to go," he said.
He said he was transferring his candidacy to the deputy position because the Liberals needed a prominent country MP.
"It's important to keep a regional voice at the table."
Mr Riordan said he had spoken to South West Coast MP Roma Britnell, who has been encouraged by colleagues to run for deputy.
"She's open to the possibility of running and I encouraged her to stay in the race," he said.
"I am happy as long as we have a strong regional voice in the leadership."
Mr Riordan said it would be a mistake for the party to ignore country priorities.
"We are failing to capture the hearts and minds of large regional centres, so if we're going to get into places like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong we need to be able to speak to those people," he said.
He said he and Ms Britnell had the necessary understanding of rural and major regional populations that the party desperately needed.
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