THERE was no victor of the Orange byelection in NSW on Saturday night, but the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party had reason to celebrate after a dramatic swing in their favour.
The first-preference count delivered 30.09 per cent of the vote to Nationals candidate Scott Barrett.
But the surprise was Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Phil Donato, who gained 24.93 per cent of the primary vote, 6 per cent higher than polling predictions and 2000 votes behind Mr Barrett.
Country Labor dropped to third in the primary votes, with 19.16 per cent.
The state seat was vacated by The Nationals’ Andrew Gee ahead of his successful bid to become the federal member for Calare.
The byelection count suffered a setback when the crucial two-party preferred results were taken off the NSW Electoral Commission website at 8pm because the commission had assumed a Nationals-Labor race.
Mr Donato said it meant the result might not be known for days.
“There's still preferential allocations to be made and that won't be conducted till distribution of preferences until the middle of next week,” he said.
“I think we always knew it was going to be close, so we've just got to wait and see.”
VIDEO: Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Philip Donato on election night:
But while the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers team celebrated at the Hotel Canobolas after winning the booths at Molong, Anson Street School, Bletchington, Bowen, Canowindra, Cargo, Cudal, Cumnock, Fiveways Uniting Church, Manildra, Mullion Creek, Spring Hill and Yeoval, the mood at The Nationals’ gathering at Orange City Bowling Club was subdued.
Mr Barrett fronted the media, saying he couldn’t be prouder of the people around him, especially after such a long campaign and he would not concede on the night.
“Obviously tonight it’s too close to call what’s going to happen so we’ll leave that for when it happens,” he said.
“Tonight for us us getting together, enjoying each other’s company and thanking all the people that have helped out.”
VIDEO: Nationals candidate Scott Barrett on election night:
However, Mr Barrett did not take questions on the swing against The Nationals’ primary vote – former member Andrew Gee won every booth in March last year.
Nationals volunteer Allen Hawke said most people’s minds were made up, with just two voters in 10 taking how-to-vote cards at Kenna Hall.
“It’s terribly disappointing because I think Scott’s the best candidate we’ve put up for many, many years but he got hit by the dogs and to a lesser extent, the amalgamations,” he said.
“And there were two megalomaniacs [Ray Hadley and Allan Jones] from Sydney who took it upon themselves to make sure things weren’t going to plan.”
Mr Barrett’s father, Ian, said he was proud.
“I’ve been on pre-polling for two weeks and I would do it all again tomorrow.”