Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell. The Northern Star

Dowell declares victory in Lismore

YESTERDAY, Jenny Dowell peeled off a 'Dowell for mayor' campaign sticker from her car and commented that the 'for' needs to be changed to an 'is'.

Mrs Dowell declared victory in Lismore's mayoral election, becoming the second woman to become the city's mayor and the first to win the post by popular vote.

The declaration came with thousands of votes still to be added to the Electoral Commission's official tally, but after the other mayoral front-runner, John Chant, yesterday conceded defeat.

The numbers on the Electoral Commission website last night were little changed from the weekend, with Mrs Dowell having received 5784 primary votes to Mr Chant's 4010, with more than 8000 votes still to be counted and preferences still to be distributed.

However, Mrs Dowell said figures she had received from the commission raised the total number of counted votes to 24,638, of an enrolled population of 29,761. On those figures she had received 6769 primary votes, giving her a virtually unassailable lead of more than 2000 votes.

Mr Chant agreed, saying the conservative candidates had failed to convince their supporters to pass their preferences to each other.

“We stuffed up with our preferences badly,” Mr Chant said. “We had a lot of people who voted for us, but all they did was vote '1'.”

However Mr Chant also acknowledged the work put in by Mrs Dowell over the campaign and said he had confidence in her leadership.

“I lost to a lady that was very dedicated,” he said. “I have no problem with Jenny, she's a workaholic.”

A jubilant Mrs Dowell yesterday said she was delighted with the win.

“I believe my campaign for mayor started four years ago when I was elected, but during the past four months I have been working pretty much every day from 6am to 11pm,” she said.

Mrs Dowell door-knocked about 4100 houses in the area during the past seven weeks, dodging magpies and dogs and battling up imposing hills.

When confronted with a big hill while door-knocking, Mrs Dowel said she told herself 'the house at the top could be the vote I need'.

“I'd hate to have reached the end of my campaign and just miss out because I didn't do enough,” she said.

That work paid off with support from some surprising places. Mrs Dowell noted postal and pre-poll votes, which traditionally favour conservative candidates, increased her lead.

Now comes the wait to find out the make-up of the council.

Based on the results so far Mrs Dowell hoped another two candidates on her Labor ticket might get a seat on the council. She also expected two from Mr Chant's ticket and two from Neil Marks' ticket would get in.

However, the count for councillors still had too far to go to make any meaningful predictions.

Mrs Dowell said she hoped to preside over a 'more co-operative' council of 'people who know more about how the system works'.

Mr Chant said he had no plans to stand for mayor at the next council election in four years, saying it was time to let younger councillors step up. He would also not contest the position of deputy mayor in the new council.

Mr Chant said he hoped to finish improvements to South Lismore's Nesbitt Park and see through work on floodplains management by the Richmond River County Council.

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