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Labor romps home in council elections at Lake Macquarie and Cessnock

TRIUMPHANT: Incoming Labor Mayor of Lake Macquarie Kay Fraser, centre, with supporters at Windale on Saturday night. Labor is expected to hold the balance of power in at least two Hunter councils after strong swings towards the party in Saturday’s local government elections.

“Labor is back and we’re back for good,” said councillor and incoming Mayor of Lake Macquarie Kay Fraser, as she delivered her victory speech to a crowd of about 60 party faithfulat the Windale Gateshead Bowling Club.

“Its been a bit of a hard slog, we all know it was a difficult pre-selection and we’ve had to work extremely hard…but we’ve had a 12 per cent swing and we are back.”

Midway through thecount of first preferencevotes on Saturday night there was also an 18 per cent swing towards Labor in its Cessnock heartland, with incumbent Country Labor mayor Bob Pynsent all but certain of retaining power.

The party also expectedto secure two extra seats on the council.“We’ve had fantastic support from the community,” Cr Pynsentsaid.

Labor insiders suggestedsome of the state government’spolicies had been on the nose with voters in the lead up to the poll, including the greyhound racing ban and council amalgamations.

Lake Macquarie Liberal councillor Jason Pauling admitted both those issues had been raised by voters on the campaign trail.

“But I think clearlythe most prevalent thing is thereis a predisposition to Labor in this area, that is no surprise,” he said.

“For many decades it has been very heavily dominated by Labor and this is a Labor town.”

Cr Pauling said his party expected to again have three councillors on Lake Macquarie council, but with two new faces –Nick Jones in the East Ward and Kevin Baker in the North Ward.

”We’re pretty chuffed and we didn’t expect much more than that. Anything beyond that would have been a dream,” he said.

“From what we can see, particularly the independent Lake Alliance appears to have taken a bit of a pounding.”

He said he was “deeply disappointed” that Cr Fraser had castigated him for a negative campaign style in her victory speech.

“From our perspective, the Liberals ran a very positive message,” he said.

“I will highlightthat ALP heavyweights attacked all three of our candidates who have ultimately been elected.”

In the speech, Cr Fraserthanked her husband and sons Pete and Steve for their support andaccused Cr Pauling of running a “disgraceful” campaign by sending text messages to ratepayers saying Labor wanted to take away their weekly garbage bin collection.

She said the independents –including Cr Laurie Coghlan –had tried to run on the “coat tails” of the old Lake Alliance whileLabor had run a positive, grass-roots campaign.

“We’ve been getting upand going to train stations every morning –freezing –door knocking, letter-boxing, going to the markets, we have been working extremely hard.”

Cr Fraser was “elated” that she willbecome the second female mayor of Lake Macquarie when she takes over from MPJodie Harrison.

“Ithink as a female to run the council is really an honour and a privilege and Ithink we bring other values to that position as well,” Cr Frasersaid.

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