With well over half the first preference mayoral votes counted in Byron Shire, incumbent mayor Simon Richardson is looking like romping back in with almost 50 per cent of voters (7,805) – placing him a clear first.
If his position just slightly improved in the remaining 8,442 votes left to count, Cr Richardson will not even need to rely on preferences to be crowned.
It is a remarkable endorsement, especially considering that one of his own Greens fellow councillors, real estate agent Rose Wanchap, deserted him early in the last term, siding with the conservatives on almost every issue and forcing him into a minority position.
Even if the vote goes to preferences, he is well and truly over the line, with Country Labor’s Paul Spooner (20.27 per cent) and Our Sustainable Future’s Basil Cameron (10.93 per cent) both preferencing him.
By comparison, Cr Wanchap’s mayoral bid is doomed. She sits on just 5.4 per cent (866 votes), and of the six mayoral candidates only sits ahead of perennial joker Jack Sugarman on 443.
National Party member Alan Hunter will also miss out, with just 1,803 first preference votes (11.36 per cent) based on the count so far, but will be returned to council.
While still in its early stages, the councillor count does not look good for Wanchap either. She currently has just over a third of the quota required to be returned.
Ballina’s three-way tussle
The likely outcome is not so clear-cut in Ballina and Lismore, where elections were also held on Saturday.
Incumbent Ballina mayor David Wright, who has been in frontline negotiations with the state government over shark attacks and who supported the building of a failed controversial ‘eco-barrier’, is still well ahead on 31.8 per cent of the vote with 8,151 first preference votes left to count.
He is followed by progressive former Greens Cr Jeff Johnson (20.95 per cent) and conservative-leaning former Nats member Sharon Cadwallader (20.73 per cent).
Cr Wright is likely to be returned on Cr Cadwallader’s preferences.
Tight battle in Lismore
Progressive totals are even closer in Lismore, where mayor Jenny Dowell has stood down after two outstandingly successful terms, during which she was at the forefront of the struggle to oust CSG mining from the LGA.
Her anointed successor, Country Labor’s Isaac Smith, is not doing nearly as well as Dowell at her last election but is nevertheless ahead on 29.2 percent (with just 6,497 first preferences left to count). It will be a battle to the finish, thought, with Nationals-aligned Neil Marks on 21.97 percent and Shooters and Fishers Party member Greg Bennett on 20.89 per cent.
Cr Isaacs will be hoping for a strong flow of preferences from Greens candidate Vanessa Ekins (15.52 per cent) to get him over the line.
Controversial candidate Big Rob’s mayoral ambitions are finished after he received just 770 primary votes (3.04 per cent). He’s also unlikely to make it into the chamber with just one fifth of the quota required to become a councillor.