GYMPIE ELECTION: ECQ delay leaves results up in the air
GLEN Hartwig remains the firm favourite to become the next Gympie region mayor, but hasn't yet declared victory amid a glitch-plagued ECQ vote count.
Mr Hartwig maintains a commanding lead over incumbent Mick Curran as of 10pm Sunday night, holding 11,862 (51.15 per cent) of the vote after 64.50 per cent of the unofficial preliminary count.
Mr Curran sits way behind on 7784 votes, or 33.56 per cent, while Tim Jerome had 3545 votes (15.29 per cent).
Mr Curran has been contacted for comment, while Mr Jerome appeared to concede defeat on Sunday, saying "it is looking like Glen Hartwig is going to win".
Hilary Smerdon looks all set to hold his Division 6 seat with 56.22 per cent of the vote, ahead of Brian Thomas (24.28 per cent) and Mikki Read Lawson (19.50 per cent) after 56.32 per cent of votes counted.
Bob Fredman (57.66 per cent) has an even stronger grip on his seat in Division 8 after 61.23 per cent of votes counted, ahead of Lyndall Ensbey (29.65 per cent) and Trent Mitchell (12.69 per cent).
Mr Fredman was not ready to claim victory as of early Sunday afternoon.
Division 2 hopeful Dolly Jensen (60.89 per cent) looks a strong chance to take the seat vacated by Mr Hartwig, leading Leonora Cox (39.11 per cent) with nearly 62 per cent of votes counted.
Bruce Devereaux still holds a firm lead in Division 4 with 38.34 per cent, followed by Rae Gate (27.23 per cent), Wayne Sachs (18.21 per cent) and incumbent Daryl Dodt (16.22 per cent) after 64.15 per cent of votes counted.
Shane Waldock remains the leader in the race for Division 3, but the ECQ has counted just 17.30 per cent of the preliminary votes.
Mr Waldock currently holds 33.47 per cent of the vote, in front of incumbent Mal Gear with 24.41 per cent and Colleen Miller on 23.71 per cent.
Dan Stewart remains ahead in Division 5, but he is far from home and hosed with just 18.60 per cent of votes counted so far.
Mr Stewart has 39.47 of the vote, with Chelle Dobson (30.83 per cent) and Rob Burns (29.70 per cent) still very much in the fight.
Just 42 votes separate Warren Polley (1088 votes, 37.15 per cent) and incumbent Bob Leitch (1046 votes, 35.71 per cent) in Division 7. Donna Reardon sits in third on 27.14 per cent with 65.35 per cent of votes counted.
It's also neck and neck in Division 1 after 39.24 per cent of votes counted, with Jess Milne (37.76 per cent) leading incumbent Mark McDonald (35.37 per cent) by a mere 44 votes.
6.30PM SUNDAY: DIVISION 6 incumbent Hilary Smerdon says he is "fairly confident" of retaining his seat as he holds a 56.22 per cent buffer over Brian Thomas on 24.28 per cent after 56.32 per cent of the votes have been counted.
Mr Smerdon acknowledged it was a tough campaign and said his goal in the next four years is to bring council back to the basics.
"I was reasonably confident I should be okay as I am always helping my constituents," he said.
"I am going to try and turn this council around and turn it into a more sustainable council that brings it back into the black.
"It's a hard one. If we had more reserves, we could do a lot more to assist the community."
Mr Smerdon said the election result so far has not surprised him.
"I'm not totally surprised by the outcome of the election. I think the residents have spoken and they have told us what we should be doing in council."
"Tonight I will be having a small gathering with my family."
Division 2 candidate Dolly Jensen is comfortably leading the race against Leonora Cox, sitting on 60.89 per cent compared to Ms Cox on 39.11 per cent with 61.88 per cent of the votes counted.
Mrs Jensen said she didn't want to jinx the results until they have been finalised.
"It was probably one of the weirdest campaigns I have ever been part of," she said.
With meet and greets cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it made it that much tougher to campaign, Mrs Jensen said.
"I am confident because a lot of people who knows how elections work have been calling me today and congratulating me on the result," she said.
Mrs Jensen thanked her amazing husband Graeme for his continued support in helping her put up corflutes and running errands during the election campaign.
"I am also very grateful to The Gympie Times for helping get our message and our profiles out to the community these past couple of weeks," she said.
"I am optimistic and confident and just letting you know I haven't removed the cork from the champagne bottle just yet."
The Division 1, 3, 4 and 7 seat is far too early to decide a winner.
So far Jess Milne (Div 1) is leading 37.76 per cent to Mark McDonald on 35.37 with 39.24 per cent of the votes counted. The number of informal votes for this division was 5.67 per cent.
In Division 3, Shane Waldock (33.47 per cent) leads incumbent Mal Gear on 24.41 per cent and Colleen Miller on 23.71 per cent with 17.30 per cent of the votes counted.
In Division 7 Warren Polley is leading in a nail-biter against incumbent deputy mayor Bob Leitch. Mr Polley is currently on 37.15 per cent to Mr Leitch on 35.71 per cent with 65.35 per cent of the votes counted.
Division 4 candidate Bruce Devereaux is leading the race on 38.34 per cent compared to Rae Gate on 27.23 per cent with 64.15 per cent of the votes counted.
Jerome: "It is looking like Glen Hartwig is going to win"
Mayoral candidate Tim Jerome says early results indicate "Glen Hartwig is going to win this Mayoral election" as the region continues its wait for updated counts from the ECQ.
"I ran this race as an individual. I was not part of a group or any (Facebook) group that led a negative campaign," Mr Jerome said through his Facebook page.
"I did not have any allegiance or secret partnership with the other two Mayoral candidates, which was implied and lied by a certain (Facebook) forum.
"Who do I believe would be the best person for the job as mayor? The answer is myself, and for many difference reasons. Both Glen and myself wanted change in council; with both of us wanting the top job; hence why we both ran and wanted Mick's job.
"I ran a positive campaign without pulling down either of the other candidates. I made it clear from the outset that Glen could have those who wanted a protest vote, I would look to win by positive plans and policies."
Mr Hartwig remains well in front on 51.15 per cent with 64.50 per cent of the preliminary count completed, ahead of Mick Curran on 33.56 per cent and Mr Jerome on 15.29 per cent.
Division 5 incumbent Dan Stewart says Glen Hartwig has a "clear lead and should win" the mayoral race as Gympie waits for the ECQ's updated results this afternoon.
In a post published on his "Dan 4 Gympie" Facebook page, Mr Stewart shared his "provisional thoughts" on the count so far.
He congratulated Mr Hartwig on what looks to be a likely win from "painfully slow" results.
"Glen Hartwig on 51 per cent of the vote has a clear lead and should win. Congratulations to Glen," he said.
"(Division 5) with only 18 per cent counted the vote is extremely similar to 2016, I am on 39 per cent with the two (challengers) on about 30 per cent each. This I think reflects that while I support Glen Hartwig, many see me as being too close to Curran."
Mr Stewart said incumbent councillors Hilary Smerdon and Bob Fredman "will get back in" in a "firm prediction", while Bruce Devereaux held a commanding lead in Division 4.
He said "councillors seen to support Curran" all lost votes.
He said Division 7 challenger Donna Reardon's preferences would be "crucial" in separating the neck-and-neck contest between Warren Polley and incumbent Bob Leitch.
UPDATE 12.30PM: THE official count has continued this morning, after major technical issues plagued last night's preliminary count.
Results came through around 10pm, which showed several incumbents in a desperate fight to retain their seats and likely others ousted. Incumbent mayor Mick Curren is likely to suffer defeat on 33.45 per cent of the vote compared to Glen Hartwig ahead on 51.27 per cent of the vote.
The Electoral Commission Queensland will not be updating the results until later this afternoon. Here is a recap of how each division is going.
In Division 1, Jess Milne is leading the race on 37.76 per cent, ahead of incumbent councillor Mark McDonald on 35.57 per cent. So far 39.57 per cent of the vote has been counted.
In Division 2 Dolly Jensen is likely to win on 61.40 per cent compared to Leonora Cox on 38.55 per cent of the vote. 27.62 per cent of the vote has been counted.
In Division 3 Shane Waldock is leading the race on 33.47 per cent compared to incumbent councillor Mal Gear on 24.41 per cent. There is still a way to go with just 17.30 per cent of the vote counted.
In Division 4, Bruce Devereaux is comfortably ahead and is likely to win on 44.83 per cent of the vote compared to Rae Gate on 24.41 per cent. There has only been 13.88 per cent of the vote counted.
In Division 5, Dan Stewart is likely to retain his position on 39.47 per cent of the vote compared to Rob Burns on 29.70 per cent. So far 18.60 per cent of the vote has been counted.
For Division 6, Hilary Smerdon is very likely to retain his position on 56.75 per cent of the vote in comparison to Thomas Brian on 22.40 per cent. So far 31.42 per cent of the vote has been counted.
One of the tightest margins so far is in Division 7 seat with Warren Polley nudging past incumbent Deputy Mayor Bob Leitch by one per cent. Warren Polley is leading 36.87 per cent compared to Bob Leitch on 35.20 per cent. There has been 14.86 per cent of the vote counted.
In Division 8, Bob Fredman has taken a remarkable lead, almost doubling the percentage of his competitor Lyndall Ensbey. Bob Fredman is leading on 56.29 per cent compared to Ensbey on 29.00 per cent. So far 32.36 per cent of the vote has been counted.
11PM: BIG changes are on their way to Gympie Regional Council with several incumbents in a fight to retain their seats and others likely ousted.
In Division 1 Jess Milne has a slight 2 percentage point lead on incumbent Mark McDonald.
Dolly Jensen has claimed almost two thirds of the support in Division 2, and is looking the likely replacement for Glen Hartwig - who has taken a strong lead in the race for the mayoral seat.
At Division 3 Shane Waldock's 33 per cent support has put him in front of incumbent Mal Gear.
Mr Gear's 23 per cent vote puts him neck and neck with Colleen Miller for second and third.
Bruce Devereaux has opened up a 22 percentage point lead on Rae Gate, with incumbent Daryl Dodt in third with 18 per cent.
Out in Division 5 incumbent Dan Stewart has eked out a lead in a tight race with 39 per cent.
Competitors Chelle Dobson and Rob Burns have claimed 30 per cent support each.
Hilary Smerdon is likely to return to his Division 6 seat thanks to 56 per cent support.
In Division 7 Warren Polley is a fingernail in front of incumbent deputy mayor Bob Leitch, with support split 36 per cent to 35 per cent in favour of the businessman.
In the Mary Valley Bob Fredman is on track to retain the Division 8 seat with 56 per cent support, well ahead of Lyndall Ensbey who is in second place with 29 per cent.
Preliminary voting is now closed for the night and will resume tomorrow morning.
10.20PM: GLEN Hartwig has reportedly solidified his lead over incumbent mayor Mick Curran in the race for the region's top elected seat.
Although the official Electoral Queensland Count remains frozen by technical issues, reports indicate Mr Hartwig is holding nearly half of the region's primary vote.
It is understood about two-thirds of the vote has been counted.
Since the last update at 8.10PM Mr Hartwig has secured almost 8000 more votes, bringing his total support for the night to almost 12,000.
Mr Curran's votes have reportedly increased by about 5000, giving him more than 7600.
Tim Jerome remains in third, having grabbed another 2000 votes to put him near 3500.
10PM: TECHNICAL issues are wreaking havoc with the Electoral Commission Queensland's live reporting of today's election count, it has been revealed.
The ECQ's Twitter feed revealed in a post at 9.30pm the preliminary count is under way but "we're having technical issues displaying results online".
"We are working on the issue.
Members of the media and the public were left in limbo for more than two hours, with no figures changing.
The preliminary count concludes at 10am tonight.
The official count will start in the morning.
8.10PM: GLEN Hartwig has increased his lead on incumbent mayor Mick Curran with almost a quarter of the region's vote counted.
Mr Hartwig's lead has jumped to 13 per cent, and he now holds 47 per cent of the vote.
Mr Curran has lost 4 per cent and now sits at 34 per cent.
Tim Jerome remains in third with 17 per cent.
There are still no results for the region's divisional seats.
7.50PM: Glen Hartwig has taken an early lead on incumbent mayor Mick Curran as the first results from today's election roll in.
Mr Hartwig is holding 43 per cent of the first preference vote, ahead of Mr Curran's 38 per cent.
Tim Jerome has 17 per cent of the early vote so far with 13 per cent of the vote counted.
No other divisional results are available yet.
6.30PM: THERE have been overwhelming calls and public anger over the State Government's choice to hold the election during a pandemic - but not everyone agrees.
Gympie's John Bates said it was everyone's right to have their say in a democracy, even with the potential risk around.
"I know there's a lockdown but if you say no to this and all the stuff that's normal, we've got non-essential workers at home beating their heads in for seven days," he said.
"Some type of normality to get out of the house and go vote is important."
Mr Bates said this was one of the better elections as there was not a single volunteer handing out cards to those walking in.
"Heck yeah, it's heaps better for the environment," he said.
"They've graffiti'd the building with posters everywhere but I think the election should've gone ahead as it's important to have the best of a normal life."
Mr Bates slammed the Mary Valley Rattler calling it a "joke."
"You see blow outs and costs associated with it," he said.
"If it was a normal company that wasn't government backed, it would've shut down a long time ago.
"It's important for them to pull up their socks and get a result.
"I think the other issue to tackle is drug use and I guess youth disobedience.
"On a daily I see a lot of kids that should be in school and they're up at the skate park, up to no good.
"I think there needs to be more investment in younger people rather than what's going on in council with this or that, I care about statistics at school and that this is happening in our community and how can we address it."
One idea was to merge three schools into one and call it a super schools.
"We've got schools sitting at 1200 students. Build a super school and merge three schools into one big school," he said.
"It's not like we don't have land to build it. I think that skate park is the best investment in a long time but it's a little too late.
"There needs to be better awareness with drugs. Drugs incapacitate you. It's a disease. We need to invest more into it."
Asked whether or not the mayoral race would be a close one, Mr Bates said "between Glen Hartwig and Mick Curran" would go down to the nail.
"I think Mick's done a sensational job. I'm not into politics but I think he has done a great job. The town is still standing. Yes the cost blowout in the latest budget was a bit disheartening saying there would be a $3 million profit and then all of a sudden there's a massive deficit, like where did that come from?"
Mr Bates said he wasn't too concerned about the coronavirus impacting the Gympie region.
"I guess it hasn't hit me too hard yet because it hasn't impacted me greatly," he said.
"Basic hand washing, social distancing and keeping to yourselves. If we can at least do that, it should help."
5PM: INCUMBENT mayor Mick Curran has two successful campaigns to his name already - but this time around, he said the coronavirus pandemic has made it a challenge to predict if he will have a third.
Candidates and volunteers were ordered away from polling booths more than 10 days ago and the result has been "an election like no other".
"You just don't know," Mr Curran said."
"It's been very hard to gauge what the result will be."
And the pandemic will pose a challenge for any new councillors stepping into the job
"They're certainly going to be thrown in the deep end," he said.
Then there was the political gamesmanship that reared its head as his re-election campaign wore on.
"A lot of things have been said by candidates that I don't believe was either true or fair," he said.
"But that's people playing politics and that's the nature of elections."
He said some of the candidates are "absolutely going to struggle to have those (promises) fulfilled.
"Incumbent campaigns are about attempting to stop the mistruths that have been said about incumbency, and certain issues to come to the fore during election campaigns."
But he was pleased with his efforts to drive the region throughout his term at the top.
"Regardless of the result I've been very proud and felt very privileged to fulfil the mayoral role over the past five years."
He said he believed the past council moved Gympie forward.
"Regardless of the current crisis that we find ourselves in I believe the past council has moved Gympie forward.
"We can see this not only by our population growth, but our building growth, the investment by the council into our future and also the change which has been made into council operations.
"Regardless of what has been said in the media by some this community should be very thankful that we have about 500 council employees who … get out of bed each and every day, go to work and make our community a better place."
4:30PM: Ellen Kenman, who just returned to Gympie from Innisfail, says the election should've been canned. "It shouldn't have gone ahead as there are a lot of businesses who have closed down due to being non-essential and in my opinion, this is non-essential," she said. "It's great to see nobody handing out cards. It's one of my dislikes."
Division 8 voter Sean Murphy is battling heart and lung issues and said the election should've been cancelled as it was a huge risk to the vulnerable. He also said it should've been better organised and that people should be allowed to vote online.
"The bureau is all set up but is not being used properly," he said.
"The coronavirus is a huge concern to me at the moment because if I get pneumonia, I could die."
THIS year's council elections have undeniably caused quite a stir among Gympie region residents as the coronavirus pandemic continues a wave of destruction across the world.
"It's greedy in my opinion," said Gympie resident Paul Murray who was in a rush to cast his vote at the Gympie Civic Centre this afternoon.
"Under these circumstances, yes the elections should've been cancelled because they are endangering people's lives," he said.
"I think the newly elected council need to focus on the younger people of this town, give them something to do. There's nothing for them to do."
Fellow Gympie residents Kevin and Mary Perks said they were hopeful of new councillors this year.
"I'd love to get a woman in charge," Mrs Perks said.
"This election should've been cancelled. We'd love to see more roads fixed and more focus on infrastructure. They could also do a bit more on dealing with the coronavirus."
It was clear that the message of staying 1.5m away from each other and staying inside was being heard and followed as polling booths across the region were quiet. Only several cars were parked outside the Jones Hill State School with voters dashing in and out as quick as a lightning bolt. Nobody was seen chatting to each other.
Others were seen with face masks at the Gympie Civic Centre polling booths.
Gympie resident Lorraine Smith said she was relieved to see no candidates or volunteers handing out, how to vote cards.
"It's a relief seeing volunteers not handing out, how to vote cards. It's good for the environment, she said.
4PM: FACED with either mayoral victory or exit from Gympie Regional Council after only one term, mayoral candidate Glen Hartwig is happy to let his fate rest with the people
But his fight for change in the region's elected leadership had been buoyed by a similar desire running as an undercurrent to the 2020 election, he said.
"There are a lot of people frustrated with how (the council) do things," Mr Hartwig said.
"Whether there's enough we'll find out later this evening."
However the former Division 2 councillor declined to offer any definitive answer to how he felt his chances to win the top job were.
"Whatever happens, happens," Mr Hartwig said.
"We'll know later tonight
"I'm not one for gambling.
When it came to the pandemic-sized elephant in the room and whether these elections should have gone ahead in the crisis, he said "(the government) obviously believes it's the right thing to do".
"In an ideal world it wouldn't happen," he said.
"But the decision has been made."
Despite the all-or-nothing risk of his run against incumbent Mayor Mick Curran and former federal and council candidate Tim Jerome for the top seat, he said it was the region's choice to decide what direction they wished Gympie to head in.
"Whatever the people decide I'll be happy with."