Retired major general Jim Molan won't be drawn on a tilt at the former bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro, saying he was focused on reform of the NSW Liberal Party first.
The author of the Abbott government's hardline boat turnback policy and former commander of allied troops in Iraq is the latest name being being touted for the NSW seat which surrounds the ACT.
Local Liberals believe General Molan could defeat fellow veteran and Labor incumbent Mike Kelly, in a race shaping up as a three-cornered fight with the Nationals.
The 67-year-old Royalla resident was pushed to the unwinnable 7th position on the Coalition's NSW Senate ticket for the 2016 election, winning more than 10,000 first preference votes.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott described the loss a "tragedy for our country" and the Liberals.
General Molan declined to discuss a possible tilt at Eden-Monaro on Thursday.
"The only thing that I've got to say is my focus right now is on democratic reform of the NSW division of the Liberal Party," he said.
Last week former Army combat engineer Nigel Catchlove confirmed he planned to nominate for preselection, while international relations expert and Navy veteran Jerry Nockles, a onetime staffer for former MP Peter Hendy, is also considering a tilt.
NSW upper house member Bronnie Taylor is among the names being mentioned for the National Party.
The party's deputy federal leader Senator Fiona Nash was blunt in responding to speculation she might seek the lower house seat this week.
"I won't be running in Eden-Monaro," she told Fairfax Media.
Some local Liberal branch members want the preselection to be decided through a rank-and-file plebiscite, part of the plan being pushed by General Molan and Mr Abbott.
Preselections are currently decided by state executive members and high-ranking branch members. Conservative Liberals want a state-wide "one member, one vote" plebiscite system.
The 2016 result ended the seat's more than 40-year status as a federal bellwether for the party forming government. Dr Kelly won it back from Dr Hendy after one term, amid a 5.8 per cent swing.
The next election could be as soon as August of September 2019.
Prospective Liberal candidates say the first Nationals challenger in the seat since 1993 would help the Coalition win the seat through preferences.
A hardliner like General Molan could also help depress any One Nation support.