State election: Candidates for Geraldton appeal to voters one last time

Phoebe Pin & Elise Van AkenGeraldton Guardian
Smoke in the air at the Wandina Primary School polling station.
Camera IconSmoke in the air at the Wandina Primary School polling station.

Geraldton’s three major candidates are pushing hard to the finish line, rushing around to as many of the city’s 13 polling stations as possible in a last-ditch attempt to win votes.

The bushfire emergency unfolding in Wandina has caused uncertainty over whether the polling station at Wandina Primary School will remain open. For the time being, the WA Electoral Commission is keeping it running.

Students wear masks with smoke in the air at the Wandina Primary School polling station.
Camera IconStudents wear masks with smoke in the air at the Wandina Primary School polling station.

A commission worker on site said they were not packing up, but were waiting on guidance from their bosses and emergency authorities.

Students are still manning the sausage sizzle fundraising stall, but wearing masks to deal with smoke in the air.

The polling booths were on the quiet side this morning with a visible lack of queues, due to the fact that 12,055 people had already voted at the Geraldton early voting centre and 1840 had sent in postal votes.

Campaign volunteers Gary Hughes, Paul Connolly, Marina Stuart and Lew Hills on election day.
Camera IconCampaign volunteers Gary Hughes, Paul Connolly, Marina Stuart and Lew Hills on election day. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Labor’s Lara Dalton is firming as the favourite to win the seat from Liberal-turned-National Ian Blayney, which would make her the first woman to be elected as the member for Geraldton.

Despite being tipped as the loser in Geraldton’s three-horse race, Liberal candidate Rob Dines has remained energetic to the end, hitting southern Geraldton polling centres from early this morning.

Supported by Federal Liberals, member for Durack Melissa Price and WA Senator Dean Smith, and a brigade of blue-clad volunteers, Mr Dines set up camp at Wandina and Mount Tarcoola primary schools to hand out how-to-vote cards, buy an obligatory democracy bacon and egg sandwich and finally vote.

Rob Dines voting at Wandina Primary School on election day.
Camera IconRob Dines voting at Wandina Primary School on election day. Credit: Elise Van Aken

The polls were quiet, even for early on election morning, with many Geraldton voters having already taken advantage of pre-polling and postal voting.

But one local man James Moody said although he had already voted, he wanted to bring his children down to support the Wandina Primary School sausage sizzle fundraiser.

The pamphlet gauntlet had a friendly vibe, with volunteers and voters alike chatting and sharing jokes amongst themselves, apart from one woman who inaudibly shouted at the Liberal tent with the remark including the word “dumb.”

Melissa Price and Rob Dines with James Moody and his sons Tobin, 1, and Cooper, 5, at Wandina Primary School.
Camera IconMelissa Price and Rob Dines with James Moody and his sons Tobin, 1, and Cooper, 5, at Wandina Primary School. Credit: Elise Van Aken

Unperturbed, Melissa Price said she believed Mr Dines still had a fighting chance to win the seat.

“I think, as everyone has commented, this is really your typical three horse race and I think Rob has given 1,000 per cent and I’m really proud of what he’s done over the last six months or so,” she said.

“I think he’s got a chance as good as anyone else and I think he would be an awesome representative for Geraldton, a young bloke with good business sense, a great community contributor and I wish him all the best.

“It’s great to be out here on the hustings, I love elections and I love campaigns so it’s been great to have been able to lend a hand to Rob.”

The campaign teams appeared hopeful they could snag last minute voters, with Melissa Price saying she expected the polls would get busier come lunchtime.

Nationals MP Ian Blayney and brother-in-law Roger House at Geraldton Primary School.
Camera IconNationals MP Ian Blayney and brother-in-law Roger House at Geraldton Primary School. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Mr Blayney said he is “relieved” to be at the end of the State election campaign.

Speaking on election day from Geraldton Primary School — where he was once a student — Mr Blayney said he was hanging up a final round of campaign signs at 6am before residents hit the polling booths.

Mr Blayney said was confident he had done his best to keep hold of the Lower House Geraldton seat.

“You always look back and think, have I done everything I could? Probably not. Have I done the best I can? I probably have,” he said.

“It’s a bit like when you go and sit a final exam - you can regret as much as you like about what you didn’t do, but you just have to carry on.”

Mr Blayney said he found election day to be “very tense” and was thankful for the support of his brother-in-law Roger House, who travelled from Kojonup to help hand out how-to-vote cards.

“It’s a relief to be at the end of it,” he said.

Labor candidate for Geraldton Lara Dalton was at Rangeway Primary School this morning.
Camera IconLabor candidate for Geraldton Lara Dalton was at Rangeway Primary School this morning. Credit: Geraldton Guardian

Although tipped to win, Ms Dalton said she was not immune to election day nerves.

“I do have a little bit of anxiety about the result, but people will decide and hopefully we will know today... as opposed to last time where it was a week-long process,” she said.

Ms Dalton was answering voter questions and checking in with volunteers at Rangeway Primary School, where most electors did not have to wait long for a polling booth this morning.

Like Mr Blayney, Ms Dalton said she was relieved the hard work of campaigning was over.

“It has been a really long campaign, we have done a lot of work and there isn’t anything more we possibly could have done,” she said.

“We have been doorknocking most days and weekends, talking to people and finding out what their concerns are.”

Polling places will be open until 6pm tonight.

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