Ann Sudmalis is the new Member for Gilmore but the gloss has been taken off her victory by one of the biggest swings against the Liberal Party in the country.
Gilmore is now one of the new Abbott government’s most marginal seats.
Based on the national swing towards the Coalition, the swing against it in Gilmore is 4.4 per cent; the swing against Greenway candidate Jaymes Diaz, who was kept from public view after his disastrous first media outing in which he spoke about the Coalitions’ six-point plan to stop the boats, but could only name one of them, was 4.6 per cent.
This poor showing came despite a well-resourced and intense local campaign which saw Sudmalis posters plastered over great swathes of the electorate while her main rival Labor’s Neil Reilly was barely visible.
Mrs Sudmalis’s supporters were kept waiting at the Nowra School of Arts until 9.30 on Saturday night, with a number leaving before their victorious candidate arrived. She had been on the other side of the Princes Highway, in a storeroom attached to an art gallery which served as a temporary office, taking calls from scrutineers at polling stations.
A failure with the audiovisual system meant calling the numbers on the big screen was left to Kiama MP Gareth Ward and South Coast MP Shelley Hancock. The gathering resembled a bingo hall.
On Sunday, Mrs Sudmalis spent the morning with close friend, housemate and predecessor Joanna Gash and family before beginning the big clean-up, collecting the scores of campaign posters dotted through the electorate.
Asked how she was feeling, she simply said, “Good.”
About the swing against her party in the electorate, she said she hadn’t had time to go through the figures closely.
However, she did acknowledge the extent of the swing against the Coalition in Gilmore.
“This was a very personal campaign. The reason that Jo [Gash] held the seat for so long was because she was so good and had a huge personal following.
“For the last two elections Gilmore has been a nominally Labor seat. The only reason the Liberals held it was because of the strength of Jo’s personality.”
Asked what she would do for the electorate in her first 100 days she said, “I haven’t thought about it.”
Neil Reilly, who conceded defeat just before 11pm on Saturday, agreed that the swing against the Liberals in Gilmore was because of the strong personal following Mrs Gash had enjoyed in office which didn’t translate to Mrs Sudmalis. He said he deliberately avoided making his campaign negative.
“With a good team and a positive message - this is how campaigns will be won in the future, I believe,” he said.
“This was the third time I’ve done this so my name recognition was high and we were presenting a clear option to provide people with permission to vote Labor.”
He said he would not return for a fourth tilt at the seat.
“I would feel like a try-hard serial candidate. Next time around there will be someone a little bit younger with a bit more vigour.”
Mr Reilly spent Sunday morning with his wife Wendy.
“We had a lovely morning having a chat about the future and how we are going to change the world in a different way,” he said.