CORANGAMITE Liberal candidate Sarah Henderson’s path to victory was more than likely along the Great Ocean Road.
Speaking to The Standard late yesterday, the former ABC journalist was reluctant to celebrate until the final figures were in, but acknowledged that at the very least she would soon hold the seat she has twice fought to win.
Little more than a couple of hundred votes from the 2010 election separated Ms Henderson from Labor MP Darren Cheeseman, who held the seat by just 0.3 per cent.
While the Liberals have claimed a four per cent swing after preferences, the candidate carefully worded her way around declaring a win.
“We’re taking this one step at a time. We’re waiting for more votes to come in,” Ms Henderson said.
“I am very humbled.”
Mr Cheeseman has so far received 46.2 per cent of the vote compared to 53.8 per cent for the Liberals.
Ms Henderson’s victory will put the electorate back in the hands of the conservatives for the first time since long-serving Liberal MP Stewart McArthur was narrowly defeated by Mr Cheeseman on preferences in 2007.
Weeks before the election Ms Henderson threw her weight behind a well-supported public campaign to secure an extra $25 million in funding to fixing the Great Ocean Road.
“The Great Ocean Road was a very important commitment for us. It’s significant because it will also be matched with money from the state government,” Ms Henderson said.
She said the Liberals had seen support swell for the party at polling booths in coastal towns, including Apollo Bay and Lorne.
She also named her campaign for the duplication of the Princes Highway from Winchelsea to Colac as a key deciding factor.
Ms Henderson will inherit a seat facing real job challenges in both manufacturing in Geelong as well as the dairy industry around Colac and rural areas.
“There’s no doubt there is a lot of concern about jobs security in Corangamite,” she said.
Both sides poured millions into promises and ramped up political appearances in the Corangamite campaign.
A record number of 12 candidates entered the battle for the seat with minor parties so far only able to snag 7.1 per cent of the primary vote.
Greens candidate Lloyd Davies received an 11.9 per cent primary count.
Mr Cheeseman was unavailable for comment.