Sheed will likely hold seat
Barring a Liberal Party miracle, Suzanna Sheed will represent the district of Shepparton, including Tatura, for the next four years.
The predicted win came at the end of a long, bruising campaign characterised by negative advertising, underhanded tactics and a three-cornered contest fought out between the independent and her two conservative Coalition opponents.
Another winner on the night, even though she will probably not achieve victory, was Liberal Cheryl Hammer whose first-time candidacy attracted 26.7 per cent of the primary vote, almost enough to unseat the incumbent after preferences are distributed.
‘‘I’m very pleased with the result . . . we’re going to wait for the count to continue,’’ Ms Hammer said.
The Liberal performance in Shepparton was all the more startling in the context of a large swing against the party statewide that has delivered the Andrews Government a clear majority in the Victorian lower house.
The Nationals under Peter Schwarz secured just over 5000 votes, or 13 per cent, of the first preference vote. This year, it was just one in 10. ‘‘I’m disappointed with the result, but at the end of the day the voter is not wrong and you have to accept that,’’ Mr Schwarz said.
Mr Schwarz said he intended to call and congratulate Ms Sheed and Ms Hammer, but expressed concerns about a damaging leak to the media at the start of the campaign when he was accused of misappropriating funds intended for irrigation infrastructure.
‘‘Clearly it has (done to damage my campaign) and when you look at some of the booths, it did play out that way,’’ he said.
About 100 Sheed supporters celebrated the vote at their campaign headquarters on Saturday night, while the mood in the Schwarz camp across the road was sombre.
Tatura-based Labor candidate Bill Heath, flanked by a collection of ‘‘red-shirt’’ supporters, stopped in to congratulate Ms Sheed.
Owing to the statewide win, the mood among the Labor faithful was upbeat, despite their own vote in Shepparton falling considerably from 17 to 11 per cent.
Another surprise was the performance of Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Murray Willaton, who achieved eight per cent, or about 3000 votes, despite never making an appearance in the campaign.
The official result is not expected until sometime this week when Victorian Electoral Commission manager Mick Bastian will declare a victory.
As of close of counting on Saturday, Ms Sheed was leading the race 56.2 per cent to Ms Hammer’s 43.8 per cent twocandidate preferred.
Waiting: Sheed supporters were glued to screens and phones during the tense wait for results to come through on Saturday.
On duty: Ben Murdoch and Megan Whittaker at the Bourchier St Primary School polling booth in Shepparton.
Friendly smile: Nickee Freeman handing out papers at Mooroopna Secondary College.