Town of Port Hedland mayor Kelly Howlett will take on Nationals leader Brendon Grylls for the seat of Pilbara at the 2013 State Election in what has been dubbed the contest of "the mayor versus the minister".

The Labor Party last night officially endorsed the 35-year-old environmental scientist as its candidate, setting up one of the more high-profile contests of the election after Mr Grylls revealed in February he would quit his safe Central Wheatbelt seat to contest Labor-held Pilbara next year.

Ms Howlett, who has been mayor for three years and lived in the town for 13 years, said this morning that "voters now have a clear choice".

"If they're looking for a long-time passionate local and someone whose family home is based in the Pilbara, someone who's keen to ensure the interests of Pilbara people are put first and someone who generally cares about the people in their home community, then they now have that option," she said.

Ms Howlett, who will continue as mayor until the March poll, said she expected the Liberal Party and Greens to also put up candidates, making it "a hotly contested seat".

Pilbara, after an electoral redistribution last year, has become more notionally Labor with a 7.2 per cent margin.

However, the Barnett Government has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the region through the Nationals-led Royalties for Regions program.

"It's going to be a considerable battle," Ms Howlett said.

Labor State secretary Simon Mead said Ms Howlett would be "a great local candidate".

He described Mr Grylls, who has said he would not live in the Pilbara if he won the seat, as a "fly-in, fly-out candidate".

"Pilbara people know fly-in, fly-out destroys their towns. Why would their member of Parliament want to be fly-in, fly-out," he said.

Labor's May pre-selection round also saw the end of Upper House MP Linda Savage's three-year political career after she failed to gain a spot on the party's East Metropolitan Region ticket.

In one of several key changes to Labor's Upper House landscape, the No. 1 and 2 spots on the ticket went to State party president Alanna Clohesy and Sam Rowe, whose sister Cassie is contesting the Lower House seat of Belmont.

Ms Savage said this morning that she "always knew" her chances of pre-selection were poor after she decided not to join a faction.

"Whilst I understand why people choose to join factions and respect their right to, I chose not to," she said.

The decision to overlook the unaligned Ms Savage, a lawyer who replaced Labor powerbroker Jock Ferguson after his death in 2010, has angered some in the party keen to broaden its talent pool beyond unionists and staffers.

Ms Savage, who has been an opposition spokeswoman on early childhood, was last month promoted by Leader Mark McGowan to parliamentary secretary.

Mr Mead said Ms Savage had made a strong policy contribution but "the party chose to go in a different direction".

Aiding the shift, East Metropolitan Region MLC Ljiljanna Ravlich will join Ken Travers on Labor's North Metropolitan Region ticket after seeking out the vacancy created by the retiring Ed Dermer.

In other pre-selection results, lobbyist and former Labor staffer Stephen Dawson and Electrical Trades Union assistant secretary Jim Murie will replace Jon Ford and Helen Bullock, who are both retiring, on the Mining and Pastoral Region ticket.

Sitting Upper House MP Matt Benson-Lidholm has been demoted to No. 2 on the Agricultural Region ticket, behind Wheatbelt farmer and former Country Labor president Darren West, with Labor expecting to win back the second seat.

Sitting MPs Sally Talbot and Adele Farina, for the South West Region, and Kate Doust and Sue Ellery, for the South Metropolitan Region, have retained their positions.

Pre-selection decisions for the Lower House seats of Balcatta and Kimberley were due last night, but deferred.

The West Australian

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