HIGH-PROFILE Labor hopeful Kathryn Hay has pulled out of the Bass team for the March state election.
The surprise announcement is a blow for the Labor Party, which saw Ms Hay's vote-catching ability as an ideal way to shore up its chances of retaining Bass, given that long-running MHA Jim Cox will not be seeking re-election.
But it provides the opportunity for newly elected Launceston City Council alderman Rob Soward to rethink trying for state politics.
He was the seventh candidate knocked out of Bass preselection earlier in the year and, with nominations closed, is the only person likely to be invited to boost the party's number of candidates back to six.
Ms Hay, 34, said that the decision not to stand had been difficult and emotional.
The reason was a chronic neck and back injury that had flared up in recent weeks to leave her often in considerable pain. It developed when she was 16 but she has been able to keep it under control with regular rehabilitation.
The degenerative muscular spinal condition means that her neck and upper back will spasm for no reason.
"At the present time I am unable to do this, and for this reason I have no choice but to stand down," Ms Hay said.
She needed time for serious rehabilitation in order to get the injury back under control.
Labor sources say that this will not be the end of Ms Hay's political career.
It is understood that she had been approached to consider standing for the Bass federal seat that will become vacant with Jodie Campbell's retirement.
With the federal election not due until later next year, Ms Hay would have longer to restore her health.
Mr Soward said last night that he hadn't had time to consider what his response would be if invited back as a candidate. He would think about it overnight.