Dowell leads in Lismore
Ms Dowell was well ahead of the eight other mayoral candidates on Saturday night as the results of first preferences in the race for mayor came through.
With more than 8000 votes still to be counted and preferences still to be distributed, Ms Dowell had 5759 votes, or 28 per cent of the first preference count.
John Chant was running second with 4001 votes, Neil Marks was third with 3484, and Vanessa Grindon-Ekins was fourth with 2120 votes.
And the mayoral result was being reflected in the councillor vote, with Ms Dowell's Country Labor grouping securing 18 per cent of the primary count so far, followed by Mr Chant's and Neil Marks' Nationals-leaning independent groupings on 14 per cent each and Ms Grindon-Ekins' coming third on 12 per cent.
With nearly a third of the vote and preferences still up for grabs, Mr Chant pointed out on Saturday that the mayoral race remained wide open, saying he had no plans to concede defeat.
The council count began with an early lead for The Greens, with the party prompting some excitement from Ms Grindon-Ekins who said the result was better than the party had expected.
“It feels like spring is in the air,” Ms Grindon-Ekins said.
“It's time for a fresh change. I'd love to be deputy mayor. Having two women at the top would be a big change for Lismore.”
At The Winsome Hotel, Lismore, where Ms Dowell and the Labor camp were holding their election night party, the atmosphere was cautiously optimistic.
“It's looking promising,” Ms Dowell said.
However, she was no closer to claiming victory than Mr Chant was to surrendering the battle.
Labor supporters offered three cheers for the woman they believed was the mayor apparent, but Ms Dowell said she would not declare victory until Elections NSW had distributed all the preferences, which would not be until Tuesday at the earliest.
Departing councillor Ros Irwin, who had been on the council for 17 years and was Lismore's first female mayor from 1997 to 1999, was also at The Winsome to congratulate Ms Dowell on her strong performance.
Ms Irwin was the last mayor to be elected by the other councillors before Lismore City Council introduced direct mayoral elections in 1999.