Several new faces appear set to join Goulburn Mulwaree Council, with 40 per cent of the vote counted.
Goulburn Labor branch president Jason Shepherd, Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate Andy Wood, and independents Dan Strickland, Michael Prevedello and Steve Ruddell are polling strongly at this stage. Their counts are ahead of five current councillors.
Mayor of the past four years, Bob Kirk, is a shoo-in, after drawing 1886 primary votes and claiming every booth.
But existing councillors such as Deputy Mayor Peter Walker (416 votes), the long-serving Margaret O'Neill (355), Leah Ferrara (417), Carol James (415) and Andrew Banfield (395) are down in the count at this stage.
A total 8622 of the eligible 21,530 votes in Goulburn Mulwaree have been counted. The NSW Electoral Commission has recorded 784 informal or 'other' votes, translating to nine per cent.
Mr Kirk said he was "stoked" and grateful for his result, while Mrs O'Neill told The Post she was "gutted."
"I said previously that it would be a fair outcome if there were three or four new faces on the council, given three were retiring," Mr Kirk said.
"But I'm surprised by the way it has panned out. By the same token, there's still some counting to go and preferences haven't been distributed. It would seem reasonable that a lot of preferences would go to those existing councillors."
Mrs O'Neill blamed the Electoral Commission for what she described as a "confusing ballot paper" and the fact that voters erroneously believed she didn't support Wakefield Park.
"I'm gutted. There's no other word for it," the councillor of 39 years said.
"I was at the polling booths all day and people thought I was against Wakefield Park. There's no way that I was. I was there with former Premier John Fahey when it started."
She told The Post that the nine per cent (784) informal vote was "a disgrace." Her scrutineers had detected 'donkey votes' where people numbered one to five in the Labor ticket and one to five in the ungrouped candidates.
Mrs O'Neill claimed the Electoral Commission hadn't explained voting clearly. However election officials were giving explanations at the booths. Mr Kirk also said the ballot paper wasn't confusing but was similarly disappointed in the informal vote.
Candidates were barred from handing out how to vote material due to COVID restrictions. Several said people were looking for this as they approached booths.
Nevertheless, Mrs O'Neill said she was 'still alive' and would await preference distribution.
Deputy Mayor of the past three years, Peter Walker, was similarly disappointed by his result.
Around the booths, people had also accused him of "voting against Wakefield Park's development application" to increase operating days and modernise infrastructure.
He said he voted against what he argued in July was an "unworkable DA" for the raceway's continued viability. The owners also opposed the recommended consent conditions and has taken the matter to the NSW Land and Environment Court.
"That (confusion) played out in my vote but anyone who actually read up on the issue should have been able to ascertain that I supported Wakefield Park," he said.
"...It will be disappointing if I don't get elected because there are still things I want to prioritise, such as the community centre, Wakefield Park, Riding for Disabled and the Shannon Drive extension (to Run-O-Waters)."
However he wasn't giving up yet and was awaiting the final count.
"If five new people get on to the council, good luck to them. I believe they are all intelligent people," Mr Walker said.
Fresh faces emerge
Labor ticket leader, Mr Shepherd is hopeful that he and number two runner, Anna Wurth-Crawford will be elected.
The progressive quota for election at 11pm Saturday was 784 votes. He and Ms Wurth-Crawford had drawn 677 and 285 respectively.
"Overall (with the Labor ticket), we have nearly two quotas but whether that translates to two candidates remains to be seen," he said on Saturday night.
Mr Wood, sitting third on the primary count with 601 votes, was "cautiously optimistic."
Mr Strickland, fifth on 578 votes, said he spent a relaxing day around the booths with his family, chatting to people.
"While it's looking positive, I won't count my chickens before they hatch," he said.
"It looks like there will be a good mix of current councillors bringing experience and fresh faces with their new ideas."
At polling stations, he said people were telling him that some councillors had "had their day." Mr Strickland said he was overwhelmed by the community support for him.
Meantime, 2GN news reader Michael Prevedello is sitting on 573 primary votes. He said he was happy with the result so far but "wasn't claiming anything."
Steve Ruddell had drawn 463 first preference votes by Saturday's close of counting.
"I'm still in the race but I'm not confident I'm across the line yet," he said.
"...With preferences still to come, my position could fall off."
Mr Ruddell believed some councillors might not be re-elected and noted the close contest between Mr Walker, Leah Ferrara and Carol James.
But Mr Kirk is a certainty. He improved on his 2016 result at every booth.
"That's a terrific compliment and I'm stoked about it," he said.
"It's a great show of confidence, faith and support. I'm very grateful for that and it puts a lot of onus on me."
He attributed the high informal vote to people being not aware of the candidates or sufficiently engaged.
The primary vote so far:
Bob Kirk (independent) - 1886
Jason Shepherd (Labor) - 677
Andy Wood (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) - 601
Dan Strickland (independent) - 578
Michael Prevedello (independent) - 573
Steve Ruddell - (independent) - 463
Leah Ferrara (The Greens) - 417
Peter Walker (independent) - 416
Carol James (independent) - 415
Andrew Banfield (independent) - 395
Margaret O'Neill (independent) - 355
Anna Wurth-Crawford (Labor) - 285
Danielle Marsden- Ballard (Labor) - 230
Tim Dally (independent) - 206
Warren Murray (Labor) - 127
Nathan Smith (Labor) - 122
Adam Milani (independent) - 92
The Labor ticket had collected a total 1441 votes by close of counting Saturday, NSW Electoral Commission data showed.
Counting continues on Monday.
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