GILMORE: Gash expected tighter race

Gilmore candidates: The ALP’s Neil Reilly and the Liberal’s Joanna Gash Newlyweds Natalie Potter and Matthew Lightfoot arrive at Gerringong Public School to cast their vote. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
Nanjing Night Net

Victory: re-elected Liberal MP Joanna Gash. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Sitting Liberal member Joanna Gash has defied her critics to win the marginal seat of Gilmore for a sixth term.She overcame the addition to her seat of Labor heartland around Shellharbour to record a convincing win over ALP rival Neil Reilly. PHOTO GALLERY: The Illawarra decidesAbout 8.15 tonight, Mrs Gash took to the stage at the Nowra School of Arts, declaring to more than 200 party faithful she was ‘‘delighted to be back’’. After spending the day handing out how-to-vote cards at every polling booth in her new areas in the north of the electorate, she arrived to a rousing reception at the Liberal Party function. A tally board in the hall showed she was the clear leader in almost all polling booths across the South Coast seat with the exception of a handful of booths, including at Flinders, Warilla and Shellharbour. She paid tribute to her campaign staff and family and said she thought the race would be closer. ‘‘We have made a dent in the Labor voting pattern up north (of Gilmore). That was something I really wanted to prove could be done. We didn’t win it in a lot of booths but we certainly gave it a good shake.’’At 9pm, with 75 per cent of votes counted, first preferences were: Liberals (Joanna Gash) 50 per cent; ALP (Neil Reilly) 36 per cent; Greens (Ben van der Wijngaart) 9 per cent. This would mean Mrs Gash would win on first preferences. On a two-party preferred basis, Mrs Gash would lead 54-46 per cent over Mr Reilly. COMMENT: NSW voters punish LaborWhile Mrs Gash has held the seat since 1996, this election it was notionally regarded a Labor seat (0.4 per cent) because of a redistribution.Gilmore stretches from Bawley Point in the south, up through Burrill Lake, Milton, Ulladulla and into Nowra. Further north Gilmore takes in Gerringong and Kiama. Since the redistribution it includes Shellharbour, Shell Cove, Barrack Heights, Warilla and a small part of Albion Park Rail. These were thought to greatly favour the ALP, but Mrs Gash seems to have made good inroads into this heartland.Labor candidate Neil Reilly declined to concede defeat despite Mrs Gash’s declaration of victory.‘‘You always wait until 100 per cent of the vote is counted,’’ he said.‘‘It’s like giving away your HSC with one exam remaining.‘‘It was an extraordinarily intense campaign with little time to prepare.’’He said the six per cent swing against Labor was not due to the change of ALP candidates in the seat.David Boyle, a high profile former rugby league player, was initially parachuted into the candidacy but withdrew in June after an outcry from furious rank-and-file members.‘‘David Boyle only affected one seat and when you look at that kind of swing right across the state I don’t think what happened was that influential,’’ Mr Reilly said.GILMORE: VOTING STATSUpdated: 10pmCounted: 61 of 62 booths (77% of votes)Primary votes:Libs 50.22%ALP 35.92%Greens 9.48%Two-party preferred:Libs 55.31%ALP 44.69%

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