Labor loses Cowie

March 13, 2010

The Cowie ward voters in Geelong have shifted their votes from Labor to conservative candidate Eddy Kontelj by a landslide in the by-election declared on March 8.

Kontelj is not a member of either major party but his brother, Stretch Kontelj, also a Geelong councillor, is a former state Liberal candidate. Eddy Kontelj's campaign was backed by the Liberal machine, with help from at least one other prominent Liberal candidate in the Geelong region.

A Labor insider pointed out that Kontelj's success came by winning support from groups that had once backed the previous incumbent, APL stalwart David Saunderson.

In 2009, Saunderson was found guilty of a conflict of interest after the cash-for-councillors' scandal. This made the ward very difficult to win for the ALP's preferred candidate, Matt Podvinsek, who lost with only 23% of the vote after distribution, compared to Kontelj's 55%.

Socialist Alliance candidate, Bronwyn Jennings, who won 5.3%, said she doesn't think the results necessarily mean the area has become more conservative.

"I think it shows that people are sick of being taken for granted and they're sick of corruption. The fact that I did quite well on a shoestring budget, and with 10 candidates in the running, shows that there are plenty of progressive people out there prepared to support a socialist candidate.

"Socialist Alliance consolidated its standing in this election. It will be interesting to see the response in the coming state and federal elections."

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