Sheed will likely hold seat

The Tatura Guardian - - Local Classies -

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.

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