Pollies out in force for NSW by-elections | Liverpool City Champion

Politicians making last-minute offers were plentiful, but few as voters headed to the polls in four NSW by-elections.

Four months after the sudden resignation of former prime minister Gladys Berejiklian prompted three other MPs to follow suit, polling day finally arrived in Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby on Saturday.

With around 40% of voters in constituencies already having chosen their candidate – voting early or by mail – people turned up in booths saturated with signs throughout the morning.

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet made campaign stops in Sydney’s two seats, Strathfield and Willoughby, while Opposition Leader Chris Minns started his morning in Bega.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison gave a shout out to ‘dear friend’ Bridget Sakr vying to win for the Liberals in Strathfield, as Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese lent a helping hand to secure field votes in the same electorate.

Former Deputy Premier John Barilaro was also looking for the Nationals candidate he was backing to replace him at Monaro.

However, a notable absence on polling day was that of Ms Berejiklian.

Liberal candidate Tim James is tipped to be his successor as MP for Willoughby, a safe Blue Ribbon seat on Sydney’s North Shore.

It’s a different story in Bega, where Labor hopes to win a “historic victory”.

The seat on the state’s south coast was held by Liberal and former transport minister Andrew Constance by a 6.9% margin.

Labor has never won it, but hopes local gynecologist and obstetrician Michael Holland can break the drought.

Mr Minns described the battle in the electorate as a referendum on the new prime minister.

“If a Conservative candidate is re-elected to this seat, and to the Strathfield seat, that will give the green light to all of Dominic Perrottet’s policies,” he said.

“Voters recognize that you can’t change the government in a by-election, but you can send a message.

“I think a lot of people want to put the brakes on the government.”

However, he was quick to clarify that the by-election results did not necessarily reflect his leadership ahead of the March 2023 general election.

Dr Holland – who said her success would be a ‘historic victory’ – is running against farmer and former teacher Fiona Kotvojs for the Liberals.

But the Liberals are also threatening a Labor seat, won by a 5% margin in the last election.

Liberal candidate Ms Sakr – whose 11-year-old daughter died with three other children when they were run over by a drunk and drugged driver in Oatlands in 2020 – hopes she will be Strathfield’s next MP.

Upset over the departure of former Labor leader Jodi McKay, who many believe was treated unfairly by the party, could help her cross the line.

Former United Nations lawyer Jason Yat-sen Li is hoping to retain the Labor Party seat, with former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd having previously lent his weight to his campaign.

Elsewhere, Nationals nominee Nichole Overall and Labor pick Bryce Wilson face off at Monaro – held by the Nationals by an 11.6% margin.

The contests are the first electoral test for MM. Perrottet and Minns.

Both have recently been elevated to office and both describe their parties as underdogs.

For Mr. Perrottet, there is the usual swinging against the government in by-elections, the loss of popular and senior MPs, as well as the scrutiny of his handling of the rising Omicron wave.

The government is already in a minority and the loss of any new seats would force it to rely more on the votes of independent MPs or minority parties.

The stakes are also high for Mr Minns, who has cast himself as the man who will make Labor a real electoral chance after more than a decade in opposition.

Although some results will leak out on Saturday evening, the NSW Electoral Commissioner said it could be a month before the final results are known, thanks to high postal voting.

Australian Associated Press

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