Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell pictured pre polling in 2008.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell pictured pre polling in 2008. Jacklyn Wagner

Twist in fight for top job

PREFERENCES are set to take centre stage in the election-night drama at Lismore City Council on September 8.

However, whether they make a whit of difference to the outcome of the mayoral poll remains to be seen.

A glance at the ballot paper looks like the sitting mayor, Labor's Jenny Dowell, is in the fight for her life, facing off against four heavy-hitting conservative candidates who are all co-ordinating their preferences against her.

However, the mayoral candidates you won't see on the ballot paper may yet send Cr Dowell skipping across the line on voting day.

In what one conservative described as a "master stroke", Greens councillor Vanessa Ekins confirmed she and three other intended mayoral candidates from the "progressive" side of politics either cancelled their nominations or withdrew entirely in an effort to improve Cr Dowell's chances of winning.

Those candidates included the head of the Girls in Gov- ernment ticket, Kate Olivieri, sitting councillor and Our Sustainable Future group leader Simon Clough and Independents Group leader David Yarnall. The intentions of those candidates is to focus the progressive vote entirely on Cr Dowell, making preferences irrelevant to the mayoral vote.

"She did a good job as mayor and we hope she does it again," Cr Ekins, who ran for mayor at the 2008 poll, said. "It was a hard decision to make, but I'm interested in outcomes for the community and ... Jenny is our best option for getting some of the things we have worked towards up and running."

On the conservative side, mayoral candidates Neil Marks, Graham Meineke, Gianpiero Battista, and Greg Bennett said they had learned the lessons from the 2008 poll and were preferencing each other in a bid to give Lismore a conservative mayor.

The conservative side of politics made a hash of preferences in the 2008 election, with several candidates putting up posters urging supporters to "Vote 1" for them, which their supporters did without distributing prefer- ences to other conservative candidates, effectively giving Cr Dowell a bit of extra support.

Sitting councillor and first time mayoral candidate Gianpierro Battista said even with co-ordinated conservative preferences, winning the election would be "difficult".

"I believe we need to change," he said. "We can't continue the way we are going."

Cr Dowell said there were no guarantees regardless of what was happening with preferences.

"There's a danger I'll lose full stop," she said. "There are four people running against me and they all have put me at the bottom of their preferences."

That said, Cr Dowell said she would be content if the vote told her she must return to the councillor ranks.

"I want to serve my community in any way they (the voters) see fit," she said.

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