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Byron Shire
May 8, 2021

Conservatives can’t count

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Graham Askey

Lismore’s conservative councillors must have been away milking cows on the day they taught arithmetic at primary school. Even so you’d have thought they would have learned that lesson from the 2008 mayoral election when, with a clear majority of primary votes, they still eventually lost to Jenny Dowell.

This was because they split their vote between four separate candidates. Since, these days, about half of voters don’t allocate any preferences, you lose that many votes at each distribution. That cost them: at least ten per cent of the eventual two-party-preferred vote, the mayoralty, and control of council for the first time in living memory.

By again nominating four candidates (Nats Marks, Meineke and Bennett and Lib Battista) they obviously haven’t learned a thing. The progressives have, because this time they’ve left the field clear for Dowell. She appears to be outnumbered but the conservatives have in fact outnumbered themselves. Dowell has been a popular mayor and would probably have been re-elected but the innumerate electoral strategy of her opponents has ensured it.

In the councillor election there will be 60 candidates on the ballot paper, divided into ten groups. The progressives are Country Labor (Dowell, Smith and Houston), The Greens (Ekins and Stock), Our Sustainable Future (Clough), Roads and Rates Action (Yarnall) and newcomers Girls in Government (Olivieri). They are four young women, a mum and a nanna. On the other side are groups headed by sitting councillors Marks, Bennett, Battista and Meineke (with Chant as his number two) and hopefuls The Young Conservatives – surely an oxymoron – (Scheibel).

I expect the result to be much the same as last time with Dowell, Smith, Houston, Ekins, Clough and Yarnall being returned for the progressives. Given their strong showing in the last state election maybe the Greens’ number two Stock might just edge out Labor’s number three. For the conservatives Marks and Meineke will be back with Bennett replacing the retiring Peter Graham. The last two positions will be fought out by Chant, Battista or Marks’s number two Kel Graham. The final spot is always a lottery.

A not-so-good result would have Dowell as a lame duck mayor without control of council.

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