Image source: ABC
By Lauren Thomson
Rebekha Sharkie has won. The Centre Alliance candidate will maintain her seat of Mayo.
The Liberal candidate Georgina Downer conceded defeat, thanking her party and volunteers throughout her campaign to regain the seat previously held by her father Alexander Downer.
The former foreign affairs minister and long-serving minister in the Howard government held the seat of Mayo for 24 years.
The Adelaide Hills has long favoured Sharkie, since her resignation from Parliament following the dual-citizenship saga.
The Mayo electorate was going to be one of the Turnbull government’s biggest challenges from each of the five by-elections held yesterday, with a 4.97 per cent gap between Sharkie and Downer prior to the vote.
Earlier in the week, a Galaxy poll in News Limited local papers had Sharkie leading on first preferences 47 per cent to 35 per cent for Downer, Labor 9 per cent and the Greens 7 per cent. After preferences, the poll predicted Sharkie to win 59 per cent to 41 per cent.
The Centre Alliance campaign throughout the by-election was warming, and approachable with a focus on Sharkie being an Adelaide Hills local.
Many favoured Sharkie opting that she had followed through with her election promises from 2016 and that they looked forward to seeing what else the Centre Alliance candidate can do for them.
Douglas Moore, an Adelaide Hills resident spoke to On the Record at his local polling station.
“I am voting for Rebekha Sharkie, she has delivered her election promises and I would like her to stay in Mayo so she can bring father change to our region.”
Moore, like many other Mayo residents, was tired with the tightly held Liberal seat not changing hands for nearly two decades before 2016.
“Georgina [Downer] has promised $20 million in projects to Mayo, that made many people in my area a little uncertain that she could do as she promised,” he said.
“We had her standing at Verdun, promising $1 million to look into ways to fix Hahndorf’s congestion problem. Yet, every Hahndorf local knows there’s no way of fixing it – it is a main road tourist attraction with no room for parking…
“So it is just an empty promise, there’s nothing you can do it unless you redesign the town.”
Downer received brutal social media comments throughout her campaign.
Most comments where aimed at the amount of money she was promising to the region, without taking into account the locals it would effect.
Natalie Davis, another Adelaide Hills resident said Downer was out of touch with her electorate.
“Mount Barker has been chopped up and sold to the highest bidder, there are thousands of new houses on pristine farmland and then Downer goes and promises more land for a multi-million dollar sports complex on even more farming land,” she said.
“She flies in John Howard, Julie Bishop and the Treasurer to persuade voters that if she gets in… she can guarantee the funding.
“To me, that is unfair. So I am voting for someone who works for the money and not receives it just because of who she is.”
At Sharkie’s now-victory party held at Wallis Cinema’s Mount Barker, she thanked all the supporters who had been with her throughout the entire campaign that totalled 78 days.
Sharkie in her victory speech took a swipe at Downer’s multi-million dollar promises for the electorate.
“Tonight, we have shown you don’t need huge wads of money, you don’t need a huge political machine. All you need are people who are passionate, people who care and that is every single one of us in this room,” she said.
Sharkie admitted to feeling crushed when she resigned due to the dual-citizenship saga and thanked those who supported her through the tough time.
In her speech, Sharkie showed complete remorse for staffers who lost their jobs due to her resignation.
In the coming days, there will be celebratory BBQ’s around the Mayo electorate – including Kangaroo Island.
Downer yesterday said she would run for Mayo again at the next federal election: long hold the political rivalry.