WA Election: Lara Dalton claims an emphatic victory in Geraldton amid Labor landslide
Geraldton was painted an emphatic shade of red tonight, electing a Labor – and its first ever woman – MP in Lara Dalton after spending 12½ years in conservative hands.
It was a red tidal wave across WA, representing both Labor’s landslide and the Liberal bloodbath, which left the Liberals with just two seats in the Lower House.
In jubilant scenes, Ms Dalton, a second-time candidate, cried and jumped for joy after officially claiming victory. She said she was shocked to see such “outstanding” booth results so early, but “didn’t want to get too excited” because of the haunting memories of her narrow 2017 loss. But when she got the official word she “just screamed”.
“It was a relief, an absolute relief to actually say yes we’ve done it,” she said.
At 9pm last night, with a third of the vote counted, Ms Dalton was ahead 63 to 37 per cent on a two-party preferred vote against Nationals incumbent Ian Blayney. This equated to a 14.5 per cent swing to Labor. Liberal candidate Rob Dines had secured 12 per cent of the primary vote.
Ms Dalton, a mother of two, former café owner and hospitality lecturer who won the popular vote in 2017 but lost on preferences, said both Labor true believers and first-time ALP voters had rewarded Premier Mark McGowan for his strong leadership during the pandemic, but they also saw a golden local opportunity – to have a sitting MP in government.
“There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Mark McGowan was going to be premier … people had been telling me for weeks they were going to vote for me even though the traditionally voted for Liberal. Business people all over have told me it makes good business sense. Mark’s done a great job but it’s also about picking up that opportunity and running with it,” she said.
Ms Dalton said the historic part of her victory, being the first female member for Geraldton in the electorate’s 131-year history, meant the world. “That to me is the best part … it’s such a great thing to be the first woman to do it and pave the way for more women in the future,” she said.
In celebrating with her campaign team, family and friends at a beachside barbecue at a relative’s house tonight, Ms Dalton said she was proud of her grassroots campaign, which was all about connecting with people. “We now have a seat at the table of a proven and highly tested State Government,” she said.
Ms Dalton thanked her opponents for running “solid” and respectful campaigns, and vowed to work tirelessly for the city she loved. “I won’t let you down,” she said.
A sombre Mr Blayney, a three-term MP who defected from the Liberals in 2019, said he expected to lose, amid the avalanche of support for the McGowan Government during COVID-19.
“As soon as I saw the State polling for my electorate after COVID I thought if there’s any scandal then I’m gone ... in 2017 I was in a group of 31 that was reduced to 13 … as soon as I knew there was a further swing I knew that that was going to sort of take me out,” he said tonight from the Nationals’ count function at the Geraldton Golf Club. “It didn’t really matter what you did, if there’s a swing of 10 per cent there there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Mr Blayney did not blame any local factors on his election loss.
“No, I don’t think so. I mean that’s what weak persons do, try and blame other people all the time,” he said.
“To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to being in Parliament. It would have been really, really hard work (being in Opposition).”
There was jubilation for a moment at the Nationals’ function when an announcement came across on TV that the Nationals now had more Lower House seats than the Liberals.
Mr Dines, representing the party that won the seat last time, said he didn’t blame Zak Kirkup, who he described as an “absolute freak”, for the loss, saying the Liberal leader’s controversial early concession only made him work harder to avoid the “given up” tag.
“I backed him 100 per cent once he did, but the strategies employed in the metropolitan area may not have necessarily resonated in the regional areas,” he said.
“Oh no, I don’t blame Zak. I don’t think Zak could have done anything in his power to change the course of our result. Zak could not have won the election for us here in Geraldton.
“I know Zak personally and he is one of the most hardworking individuals I have ever met.
“The guy is an absolute freak and he took on a job few other people wanted to do, so hats off to him for giving it 110 per cent.”
Speaking from the Liberals’ function at the Ocean Centre Hotel, Mr Dines said it had been a “long and drawn out campaign” that he was relieved was over, but wouldn’t rule out running again.
“We nominated pre-pandemic and this really defined the entire campaign,” he said.
“I’m very much relieved that it’s over and very excited to get back to real, normal life on Monday and spend a bit more time with the family.
“I’ll remain as branch president and I’ll continue on in that role.
“Four years ago a certain member of parliament asked me if I would consider running in 2021 and I was flattered but politely declined, I had no intention of running.
“And yet here we are, I actually did run so to try and second guess what might happen in another four years I couldn’t rightly say.
“I wouldn’t rule it in or out, never say never in politics.”
He said he knew early on he was up against a popular Labor side, but that didn’t stop him fighting until the very end.
“I think as soon as the pandemic began it became pretty clear we were swimming against a very strong tide, and it’s been such the entire way,” the air-conditioning business owner said.
“I couldn’t say that there was one thing that went wrong for us but the campaign certainly felt like a four-quarter football match where the ball never bounced your way, the free kicks never went in your favour and the other team just had the run of the green the entire way.”
At the Liberal function in Geraldton, Federal Durack MP and Defence Industries Minister Melissa Price said: “Geraldton has lost tonight and we will hold your new member to account.”
“She has made a long shopping list of promises and if she dare not hold those up she will not only be hearing from me but from Rob as well.”
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