Nationals take early lead in crucial NSW by-election which is set to decide the future of coal mining in the region
- Nationals’ David Layzell has taken an early lead in NSW Upper Hunter by-election
- Mr Layzell has about 33 per cent of first preference votes, counted on Saturday
- The by-election contest has centred on the future of coal mining in the region
The Nationals have taken an early lead in the New South Wales Upper Hunter by-election – a poll set to decide future of coal mining in the regional electorate.
The polls closed about 6pm on Saturday and results have started to trickle in from a by-election that is a must-win for both major parties.
The Nationals’ David Layzell has taken an early lead from about 3,300 votes that have been counted so far.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian elbow bumps a voter while handing out how to vote pamphlets in support of Nationals candidate for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell on Saturday. The Nationals have taken an early lead in the pivotal poll as results start to trickle in
Mr Layzell has about 33 per cent of first preference votes, with Independent Kristy O’Connell on about 14 per cent.
Both major parties are sweating on the results, which could push the Berejiklian government into minority, or increase the pressure on Jodi McKay’s position as opposition leader.
But it could be a long wait – there are 13 candidates on the ballot, and counting could take some days.
Preference flows are tipped to decide the contest with neither major party likely to win the seat outright.
The Nationals had held the seat by 2.6 per cent, before MP Michael Johnsen’s resignation over sexual assault allegations and a sexting scandal prompted the by-election.
Mr Johnsen denies the allegations and has not been charged.
The by-election contest has centred on the future of coal mining in the region, with Labor and the Nationals talking up their coal credentials, and Labor candidate Jeff Drayton a former coal miner.
The Nationals’ David Layzell has taken an early lead from about 3,300 votes that have been counted so far. Mr Layzell is pictured meeting Labor candidate Jeff Drayton
Labor has come close to winning the seat before, and hopes to rely on a history of by-election swings against governments.
Other candidates including the Greens’ Sue Abbott and Ms O’Connell want to move the region away from its reliance on coal.
Candidates and their party leaders spent Saturday campaigning outside polling stations, but more than 40 per cent of the electorate had already made their minds up before Saturday, with some 23,000 votes cast early.