Barham has strong lead in battle for Byron
LONG-TIME Byron councillor Ross Tucker all but conceded defeat as votes flowed to incumbent mayor Jan Barham on Saturday night.
With more than 7000 votes still to be counted and preferences to be distributed, the mayoral race in Byron remained wide open last night, but Ms Barham held a commanding lead with 6412 votes to Mr Tucker's 3559.
“We're only about half way but it's looking shot,” Mr Tucker said at his election night party at the Billinudgel Hotel.
“Terribly, terribly shot. Jan's polling stellar, absolutely stellar.”
While counting was still proceeding at other polling stations, Mr Tucker was under no illusion that the pattern would change. In Byron Bay he only received 572 votes, compared to Ms Barham's 1573.
“Voters must be happy with the job she's doing,” he said about the results.
“She's been there four-and-a-half years and they like her. I don't think there's any hope. I don't see it.”
However Ms Barham, surrounded by about 80 supporters at Mullumbimby's Poinciana Cafe, said she had seen too many last-minute upsets to start celebrating.
“It's one of those things about not feeling content until it is done,” Ms Barham said.
“We have seen so many times the peculiarities of preferences.”
As at the 2004 election, the battle for Byron has become a two-horse race. The nearest contender of five candidates behind Ms Barham and Mr Tucker as of last night was Independent Tony Heeson with only 706 votes.
Perhaps the most telling result came from Ocean Shores, where Ms Barham was expected to struggle against a community still riled about the loss of the planned Shara Boulevard sporting fields and against Mr Tucker's personal popularity. Instead Ms Barham out-polled Mr Tucker at the Ocean Shores booth 954 votes to 844.
Ms Barham said her performance at the polls this time around was because she had a chance to show people what kind of a mayor she was.
“The difference this time would be, I hope, recognition of the hard work that has been done over the last four-and-a-half years,” she said.