Eden-Monaro byelection: Labor faithful 'quietly confident' Kristy McBain will lead them to victory

Emma Hogan, Manu Risoldi and Natalie Simonovski celebrate in a COVID safe way, after a hard-fought campaign at the Labor Party Eden-Monaro function at the Sapphire Club in Merimbula. Picture: Elliot Williams
Emma Hogan, Manu Risoldi and Natalie Simonovski celebrate in a COVID safe way, after a hard-fought campaign at the Labor Party Eden-Monaro function at the Sapphire Club in Merimbula. Picture: Elliot Williams

As the Labor faithful gathered at Kristy McBain's election night event in Merimbula, there was a jovial air in the room that suggested they were confident of a happy night ahead.

When Ms McBain and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese addressed the crowd shortly before 11pm it was to raucous applause, despite the fact the result was still too close to call.

Ms McBain reminisced that the last time she had spoken to a crowd full of people at the Merimbula Sapphire Club she was warning people to evacuate their homes and leave the area as bushfires headed their way.

She said that was a much more nerve-wracking experience than Saturday night and offered her some perspective.

She thanked the people of Eden-Monaro for being so crucial to her campaign.

"To all those people in Eden-Monaro, all the people struggling, to small businesses, tourism and hospitality providers, forestry workers, our farmers, those people that have been impacted by this fire, thank you for allowing us to share your stories and shine a spotlight on what matters most, and that is people," she said.

Ms McBain also thanked her husband and three children for their sacrifices to allow her to run for the seat.

"I have always had the very best of support and my husband," she said.

"When I decided I would put my hand up to run for local council, I was on maternity leave. He said to me, there will never be a right time, but you have to do this now, to stand up for the people we know and love."

One of the earliest results that came through was the nearby Tura Beach booth, traditionally a Liberal party stronghold, that went to Labor.

Tura Beach resident Robin McPherson was ecstatic at the news and was in no doubt about what caused the result; Ms McBain's personal appeal.

"Kristy's changed some people's minds, that's for sure," Mrs McPherson said of the candidate who also calls Tura Beach home.

"She's sympathetic, down-to-earth, it helps she was the mayor. She's a real listener."

Labor Senator for NSW Tim Ayres was a bit more circumspect when addressing the crowd.

He suggested it was going to be extremely tight and would take time to count, with the possibility a result wouldn't be known until tomorrow.

"It would be an extraordinary upset victory for the Labor party at this time, in this seat, to claw back a victory for the Labor party in Eden-Monaro," Mr Ayres said.

He also thanked the crowd on behalf of Ms McBain and the Labor Party.

"All of you have done the Labor Party proud."

Another Labor volunteer, John Gelling, spent the day manning the booth at the tiny village of Towamba.

Like most of the booths in the region, it was quieter than usual, about half the number went through compared to last year, according to Mr Gelling.

But he said he ended the day feeling "quietly confident".

"You got the impression it was going [Labor's] way," Mr Gelling said.

"People come out and they give you a thumbs up or they only take your how-to-vote card."

He said Ms McBain's response to the devastating bushfires in and around the Bega Valley Shire had won her a lot of support in the community. But he noted the size of the electorate would always pose a challenge.

The election night event, much like the activity at the polling booths, was somewhat subdued as numbers had to be restricted and party members had to spend most of the night seated and observing physical distancing.

This story Labor faithful 'quietly confident' of positive Eden-Monaro result first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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