Roma Britnell's easy win in the South West Coast election surprised many observers, including the re-elected Liberal MP herself.
The Standard spoke to two long-time opponents - former Liberal Premier and Member for South West Coast Denis Napthine, and four time runner-up Roy Reekie - to get their take on what happened.
Mr Reekie, who joined independent candidate Carol Altmann's campaign, said he was baffled when results started flowing in on Saturday night.
"What an unexpected result, it was a really interesting election," he said.
"But sitting down and looking at the numbers, I now understand how it happened."
Coming into the election, Ms Britnell sat on a 3.2 per cent margin, but many believed that after Alex Dyson's strong showing in Wannon during the May federal election the incumbent might be vulnerable to a strong independent challenger. Instead, the Liberal primary vote rocketed nearly 10 points and the two-party-preferred rose more than five.
"What we saw was a protest vote," Mr Reekie said.
"Voters wanted to send a message to Dan Andrews and rather than doing that by voting for the independent, they've voted for the Liberal.
"It looks like an endorsement of Roma, but it's not."
Mr Reekie said the "anti-Dan stuff was visceral out on the campaign trail" and got stronger the further west you went.
"I don't know the last time Portland was universally lost by Labor," he said. "Out there younger men and women, and particularly tradies, as well as older men, were very hostile towards the government.
"I feel like what happened was the feelings about lockdowns galvanised a significant group against Labor."
Mr Reekie said when there is a protest vote it usually goes to the most obvious alternative. He said in the federal election that was Alex Dyson, who had a high profile, had run before, and a campaign financed by Climate 200.
He said for voters looking to reject Labor, Ms Britnell was the clearest option.
"Roma Britnell became the Alex Dyson of this election," he said.
"Roma didn't put a foot wrong, she was absolutely everywhere and ran a very good campaign."
Mr Reekie said the total independent primary vote from the 2018 South West Coast election was eight points higher than it was on the weekend. He said those "swinging voters" went to Ms Britnell, accounting for her big primary vote bump, but if they had swung to Ms Altmann it would have been "very close".
Dr Napthine said he didn't agree with his former opponent's analysis.
"That is the most convoluted misrepresentation I've ever heard in my life," he said.
"It is absolute and utter nonsense."
Dr Napthine said Ms Britnell had earned the endorsement of the voting public through her performance as a local MP.
"Roy is doing a double flip twist with a pike when the actual truth is Roma has worked hard to earn this result," he said.
"She has put in a solid four years fighting for key issues like the appalling state of our roads, health services in the region, and particularly Portland Hospital with out-of -towners running the board. These are issues she has fought very hard for."
He agreed with Mr Reekie that voters had become more familiar with Ms Britnell, but said that was only an advantage because she had done a good job.
"I think the result was very much people saying they see Roma around the region, whether that's in Heywood, Portland, Tyrendarra, Port Fairy, or Koroit, she is out in the region listening and putting people views to parliament," he said.
Looking forward to the next four years, Dr Napthine said he thought Ms Britnell would ensure the government delivered on its promises. He said he disagreed with people saying Ms Britnell's criticisms of the government caused the South West Coast to be overlooked.
"That's complete and utter rubbish. Community outrage is what gets attention, otherwise they just ignore you or walk all over you," he said.
"I think with the current gov the only way you get their attention is stamping up and down and making a lot of noise."
IN OTHER NEWS
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.