Victorian election 2018 Mildura: Tony Alessi won't quit Labor over TV ad rift

Mildura Labor candidate Tony Alessi. Picture: Louise Barker

Mildura Labor candidate Tony Alessi. Picture: Louise Barker

LABOR candidate Tony Alessi says he can't quit the party over a contentious advertisement attacking Nationals MP Peter Crisp, even though ALP head office rejected his request to have the ad canned.

Dr Alessi said he had fielded calls to step down but decided not to because it would set Labor back generations in Mildura.

"I am certainly not going to muck up my whole plan, which was to make us marginal and relevant to the Labor Party," Dr Alessi said today.

"We don't want to end up in a situation where we end up punished with a premier like (Jeff) Kennett did."

Dr Alessi said quitting the party would let down his supporters within the Mildura branch of the party and others, including an older couple, who had given him financial donations.

"People have asked me to resign but I can't do that to my community... I can't do that to people who have funded my campaign," he said.

However, Dr Alessi's relationship with Labor head office has deteriorated significantly over the advertisement, which began airing on commercial television in Mildura late last week and was authorised by the party's state secretary, Samuel Rae.

The ad references a letter Mr Crisp wrote to a convicted sex offender, firearms charges he faced four years ago, and an attack on ambulance response times under the previous Coalition government.

Nationals leader Peter Walsh today said Dr Alessi "needs to have a long, hard look in the mirror about what he is effectively, by default, approving head office to do up here".

"Ultimately, the Labor candidate here is responsible for his campaign in this area so just ducking and saying it's Melbourne is not good enough," Mr Walsh said.

"From a National Party point of view, the candidate is always accountable in their own electorate."

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