Hunter council elections

11.01pm: It's just about goodnight from us here in the Herald's tally room.

A region wide recap for you before we head off to bed.

In Newcastle it looks like Jeff McCloy will be the new lord mayor and will win with more than 40 per cent of the primary vote. Labor's vote was up, and would have been enough to win the last election. But Mr McCloy steamrolled fellow independents, and preference flows will leave Nuatali Nelmes short of the mark.

In Lake Macquarie, Labor's Jodi Harrison is set for victory with an impressive swing towards the party. 

Labor is also in front at Cessnock, and the party would be pleased to win back two mayoralties and see an increased vote across the board.

In Maitland, Peter Blackmore annihalated his opposition and will not need a preference count to win another term in office.

At Port Stephens, the race is tight, but Bruce MacKenzie looks set to return to his old job as the area's first directly elected mayor. He has been run very close by Geoff Dingle, but preferences will get Macka over the line. 

Elsewhere, the vote at Singleton will go to preferences, with Kylie Stibbard narrowly leading John Martin, and incumbent Sue Moore running third.

We'll have a full run down of the results in Monday's Newcastle Herald, including council ward races.

Thanks for following!

10.56pm: PORT STEPHENS We finally have a result! Or as close to a result as we could hope for. Bruce MacKenzie spent a lot of money on his campaign, but he has been run extremely close by Geoff Dingle. "Macka" looks set to win, after doing a preference deal with Sally Dover, who also polled well.

Geoff Dingle             9556        34%

Bruce MacKenzie    10,475      37%

Sally Dover               7919        28%  

10.37pm: CESSNOCK With most of the precincts reporting, Bob Pynsent looks to be Cessnock's new mayor. Labor has won 27 per cent of the vote in a 10-way contest. Preferences will be needed and the count will continue into tomorrow. Alison Davey has been well and truly tossed out.

Alison Davey           1435        8%

James Ryan            1731        10%

Toby Thomas           1425        8%

Bob Pynsent            4785        27%

Cordelia Burcham    2685       15%

John Harvey            2621        15%

Allan McCudden      905           5%  

Ian Olsen                 782           4%

Rachel Main            1117         6%

Neil Gorman             292          2%

10.36pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Damon Cronshaw reports from Lake Macquarie, with 50 per cent of the vote counted: 

ALP's Jodie Harrison - 35.1 per cent

Ind Wendy Harrison - 22.9 per cent

Lib Ken Paxinos - 22.5 per cent

Ind Jim Sullivan - 7.4 per cent

Greens Phillipa Parsons - 8.6 per cent

Ind Arjay Martin - 3.5 per cent

The results so far show a swing to Labor of 8.9 per cent and a swing away from the Independent Lake Alliance of 38.3 per cent.

ALP's Jodie Harrison is on course to be Lake Macquarie's first female mayor.

''It's great to be out in front nearly halfway through," Jodie said.

10.23pm: MAITLAND It's a runaway victory for incumbent Peter Blackmore in Maitland, as expected. With one booth still to report back, Blackmore has already won the election on primary votes. His total should be about 54 per cent of the city. 

He said he was "very pleased that I had the overwhelming support of the people."

"It's great for me and the team. When I say the team I'm talking about the officers of council, employees of council, fellow councillors and the community."

Just another quick plug for our election contractors, who are still reporting on their website that only two booths have reported results.

10.10pm: SINGLETON All the booths are in for Singleton's poll. Kylie Stibbard has a lead of about 350 votes, but it looks like this one will be decided by the three Ps. Pre-poll, postal and preferences! 

John Martin            2658        22%

Kylie Stibbard        2992        25%

Lee Gallacher         519         4%

Sue Moore             1923        16%

Terence O'Brien      664         6%

Fred Harvison         1421       12%

Tony McNamara     1664        14%

9.57pm: NEWCASTLE The official results are only very early, but feedback is that Labor will win four council spots, and the Libs will win at least three, with Allan Robinson elected in Ward 4. 

The Greens are also likely to get up in Ward 1, which means Aaron Buman could be leaving the council altogether. Races in the other wards are expected to be tight.

9.44pm: PORT STEPHENS It's three and a half hours since polls closed and the Port Stephens returning office has gone offline. No phones, no web updates. Former mayor Bruce MacKenzie says "I don't know what's going on". The best feedback we have is that Cr MacKenzie is leading in five of six booths to report back, but that his council adversary Geoff Dingle is also polling well.

9.36pm: UPPER HUNTER All booths are in at Upper Hunter Shire, with some pre-polls and Sydney votes still to come. Lee Watts has three times a quota and should get Deirdre Peebles and Ron Campbell from her ticket on to the council. Michael Johnsen and Maurice Collison also have a quota.

9.27pm: We're also getting a lot of feedback about the paucity of results coming from the contractor running the Lower Hunter elections. The electoral commission can post results promptly. To borrow a turn of phrase from Jeff McCloy, "surely it's not that hard".

9.26pm: PORT STEPHENS We still have no official results, just word of mouth. We understand that Bruce MacKenzie is leading in four of the five booths reporting, but that Geoff Dingle is also polling well. Will post results as soon as they're made available.

9.21pm: CESSNOCK We've been sent an updated count for the coalfields. We only have percentages, but will have the official numbers soon. Preferences will come into play, but it's another decent result for Labor. The party would certainly be happy to win back two mayoralties tonight.

Davey           7.5%

Ryan            10.2%

Thomas        8.5%

Pynsent        26.3%

Burcham       15.2%

Harvey           14.5%

McCudden     5.4%

Olsen             4.4%

Main             6.3%

Gorman         1.8%

9.20pm: NEWCASTLE: Jeff McCloy has scored in some odd places today. Cooks Hill usually goes bright Green. Results show Mr McCloy more than doubling the tallies of the Greens and Labor there. 

9.19pm: NEWCASTLE Labor's hopes tonight rest on good results at Islington and several booths around Mayfield that have not yet reported and would typically lean to the left. If those booths can pull back Jeff McCloy's lead, we will have ourselves a race.

9.06pm: MUSWELLBROOK Most of Muswellbrook is reporting and it looks as though Mayor Martin Rush, Brett Woodruff, Stephen Ward, Gary Serhan and Graeme McNeill will reach the quota on first preferences. The final spots might require a preference count.

9.01pm: LAKE MACQUARIE This just in from our Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw. It looks like Jodie Harrison will provide a big positive for Labor tonight. 

40,000 votes (about 35-40 per cent of total) counted in Lake Macquarie.

Jodie Harrison (ALP) - 14,298 - 35%

Wendy Harrison (Ind) - 9258 - 22.7%

Ken Paxinos (Libs) - 9359 - 22.9%

Jim Sullivan (Ind) - 2792 - 6.8%

Phillipa Parsons (Greens) - 3626 - 8.9%

Arjay Martin (Ind) - 1485 - 3.6%

Vote so far represents an 8.8 per cent swing to Labor and a 3.7 per cent swing away from the Greens.

8.58pm: NEWCASTLE Labor's 26 per cent of the vote in Newcastle is still a very healthy improvement from four years ago, when the party polled just 18 per cent. In fact, if things remain in step, it would be Labor's best result in Newcastle since 1999. That tally would have been enough to win four years ago. But McCloy seems to have thoroughly scooped the independent vote.

8.57pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Damon Cronshaw is getting information that with 40 per cent of the vote counted, Jodie Harrison from Labor still has a healthy lead.

8.56pm: The private contractor running elections has not yet posted results for Newcastle or Port Stephens. It's been nearly three hours since counting began. Our results for Newcastle are official booth counts.

8.51pm: Have just recieved a message from Kristen McPherson, who is the Newcastle lord mayor's executive assistant. She served for 13 years with John Tate and is watching our coverage with interest.

"Hi Ben, spending my Saturday night with you hoping to find out who will be my new boss," she writes.

8.46pm: DUNGOG Dungog's A Ward, which is centred on the township, is a very tight race for three council seats.

Tracey Norman        240            22%

Stephen Farrow       333            31%

Neville Bale             277            26%

Jennifer Lewis         217            20%

8.41pm: NEWCASTLE Updated, with percentage counts. McCloy has a commanding lead, but remember that Nelmes will recieve most of the preferences from the Greens and Buman. It's just close enough to remain too close to call.

Nuatali Nelmes                5299        26%                       

Aaron Buman                  1376         7%      

Jacqueline Haines           892           4%

John Sutton                     2176        11%

Bryan Havenhand            510           3%

Col Peebles                     403           2%

Jeff McCloy                      8505         41%

Informal                           1146

Total                                20,307

8.36pm: NEWCASTLE Results are finally official and it looks like we're heading for a McCloy coronation. 

Nuatali Nelmes                5299           

Aaron Buman                  1376       

Jacqueline Haines           892   

John Sutton                     2176

Bryan Havenhand            510

Col Peebles                     403 

Jeff McCloy                      8505

Informal                           1146

Total                                20,307

8.33pm: If you're wondering what's happening across the rest of New South Wales, check out Bevan Shield's live coverage.

8.31pm: SINGLETON Only three booths left to report in the Singleton mayoral race. This will certainly go down to preferences, and the result is unlikely to be known any time soon.

John Martin           1948        24%

Kylie Stibbard        1926       24%

Lee Gallacher        240         3%

Sue Moore             1430       18%

Terence O'Brien     455         6%

Fred Harvison         880         11%

Tony McNamara     1184        15%

8.26pm: GLOUCESTER Checking in at Gloucester and the first results are mixed. Nine candidates are vying for seven council spots.

Frank Hooke        452        27%

Aled Hoggett        252       15%

Tony Tersteeg      164       10%

James Dupree      82         5%

Katheryn Smith    116        7%

John Rosenbaum 171        10%

Jim Henderson     198        12%

James Hooke        136        8%

Jerry Germon        102        6%

8.21pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Here are the full results for the lake city. Damon Cronshaw reminds us that while it looks hopeful for Jodie Harrison, don't count your chickens. West Ward is Wendy Harrison's stronghold, and many booths there are not yet reporting. 

Arjay Martin            447         4%

Ken Paxinos           2665       21%

Jodie Harrison        4111       33%

Jim Sullivan           1000        8%

Wendy Harrison      3102       25%

Phillipa Parsons     1120       9%

8.16pm: LAKE MACQUARIE Our Lake Macquarie reporter Damon Cronshaw is on the case, even if the private contractor isn't. Looks like the Independent Lake Alliance is going to struggle to hold the council after the retirement of Greg Piper.

He reports that with 12 booths reporting, the mayoral count is: 

Jodie Harrison (ALP)    32.5%

Wendy Harrison (Ind)    23.6%

Ken Paxinos (Lib)         23%

8.12pm: LAKE MACQUARIE: We're hearing unofficially that Labor's Jodie Harrison has the lead in the mayoral race.  Booths reporting so far are from the North and East wards. No official results yet.

8.09pm: We're still waiting for results at Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie and Newcastle. Reports from Newcastle have Jeff McCloy ahead on primary votes in all booths. He'll need to win handsomely on primaries, as most preferences will flow to Labor's Nuatali Nelmes.

8.08pm: CESSNOCK Wow, what a tight race in the Coalfields!

Alison Davey            32        9%

James Ryan             26        7%

Toby Thomas           11        3%

Bob Pynsent            75        21%

Cordelia Burcham    75        21%

John Harvey            78        22%

Allan McCudden      27        8%

Ian Olsen                 14        4%

Rachel Main            13        4%

Neil Gorman             4        1%

8.06pm: CESSNOCK First results are in and it's very, very close. Only two small booths (Neath and Pokolbin) reporting, but John Harvey, Cordelia Burcham (Liberal) and Bob Pynsent (Labor) are all within three votes of one another. Incumbent Alison Davey has just nine per cent.

8.02pm: UPPER HUNTER Mayor Lee Watts is easily the most popular council candidate in the Upper Hunter Shire, with about 30 per cent of the vote. Michael Johnsen and Maurice Collison seem to be safe also.

8.01pm: SINGLETON John Martin and Kylie Stibbard have pulled clear of Sue Moore in the mayoral race. There's only five votes separating the frontrunners. 

John Martin            1505        24%

Kylie Stibbard         1501       25%

Lee Gallacher         187         3%

Sue Moore              1079        18%

Terence O'Brien      344         5.6%

Fred Harvison          631         10%

Tony McNamara      892         15%

7.56pm: MAITLAND For the record, the two booths reporting at Maitland are East Maitland Public School and Millers Forest.

7.52pm: NEWCASTLE No formal results yet, but word from the Jeff McCloy camp is positive for the businessman and developer. Feedback is that their numbers are high, including at places like Mayfield East where they expected Labor to poll well. I spoke with Mr McCloy briefly, and he said he was still expecting "Nuatali [Nelmes] to poll strongly"

7.46pm: GREAT LAKES We won't have detailed results for Great Lakes until later, because most candidates are running in groups. The groups led by Len Roberts and Jan McWilliams both have about 25 per cent of the vote.

7.41pm: SINGLETON Sue Moore looks to be in a close fight to hold on to her job as mayor.

John Martin            477        22%

Kylie Stibbard        419        20%

Lee Gallacher        48           2%

Sue Moore             573         26%

Terence O'Brien    126         6%

Fred Harvison        159         7%

Tony McNamara    338         16%

7.38pm: DUNGOG Glenn Wall has pulled ahead in Dungog's C Ward. The early vote must not have been from the Vacy area, where the former mayor is very popular. Looks like it will be tight for the final of three spots in the ward.

Robert Booth        356        28%

Linda Bowen        220        17%

Glenn Wall            487         38%

Dave Rouse         204         16%  

7.37pm: We've just had word throught Twitter that Cordelia Burcham and her supporters are watching our coverage. Hope to bring you some news from Cessnock very soon.

7.31pm: The private contractors are being thoroughly thrashed by the NSW Electoral Commission. Still no official booth counts from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens and Cessnock - the five councils that opted to run their own polls.

7.26pm: SINGLETON Incumbent Sue Moore is pulling away in mayoral polling and has 32 per cent of the primary vote.

John Martin            243        18.22

Kylie Stibbard        201        15.07%

Lee Gallacher        35          2.62%

Sue Moore             428        32.08%

Terence O'Brien     96          7.20%

Fred Harvison        78           5.85%

Tony McNamara    253         18.97%

7.24pm: NEWCASTLE Looks like a good night ahead for Jeff McCloy. No results yet from Newcastle but @corinnepaterson has just tweeted from the New Lambton booth count (see gallery). The biggest pile, she says, is for Jeff McCloy.

7.17pm: UPPER HUNTER We've also gone one booth reporting from Upper Hunter Shire. Things still very early: 

Lee Watts (Group)           37            24.67%

Wayne Bedgood              24            16%

Lorna Driscoll                    1              0.67%

Kiwa Fisher                       8              5.33%

Russell Sakey                    2             1.33%

Michael Johnsen               18           12%

Peter Bishop                     11            7.33%

Gary Mauger                       0            0.00

Maurice Collison                48           32%

7.11pm: MUSWELLBROOK It looks like Muswellbrook is backing Mayor Martin Rush for another term on council. He's the standout from early polling. 

Stephen Ward            50            17.54%

Karen Portolan            7              2.46%

Brett Woodruff            56            19.65%

Martin Rush                94             32.98%

Malcolm Ogg               2              0.70%

Rod Scholes                8              2.81%

Christine Phelps        22             7.72%

Janelle Risby               1              0.05%

John Shewan               6              2.11%

Jennifer Lecky             8              2.81%

Gary Serhan                17            5.96%

Raymond Butchard     7              2.46%

Graeme McNeill          7              2.46%

7.07pm: Nothing yet from our five lower Hunter councils using a private contractor.

7.03pm: SINGLETON We also have early results from the Singleton mayoral poll. Way too early to represent a trend across the local government area. 

John Martin            122    26.75%

Kylie Stibbard        84      18.42%

Lee Gallacher        8        1.75%

Sue Moore             97      21.27%

Terence O'Brien    33       7.24%

Fred Harvison        30       6.58%

Tony McNamara    82       17.98%

7.02pm: DUNGOG Our first results tonight come from Dungog's C Ward. Robert Booth won more than 50 per cent of votes at the first polling place to report. Only 346 votes counted so far. 

Robert Booth    173    52.23%

Linda Bowen    32     9.85%

Glenn Wall        31    9.54%

Dave Rouse       89    27.38%

6.57pm: Just a reminder to contact me with any election tips, gossip or feedback:

bsmee@theherald.com.au / @bensmee

6.47pm: One of the other great contests on election day is the polling booth barbeque. We've heard good things about New Lambton South, but @garthk took a photo of the Mayfield East sizzle, and it looks pretty appetising! 

6.45pm: At Port Stephens, voters are directly electing their mayor for the first time. The controversial former mayor Bruce MacKenzie is running against a bitter opponent, Medowie councillor Geoff Dingle. Cr Sally Dover is also a contender.

Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore is tipped to keep his job. He tweeted earlier that it was a “great day in Maitland”. 

Just a reminder that we will post the results here as soon as booths are reporting.

6.30pm: The contest at Cessnock is another thriller. Nine candidates have lined up to knock incumbent Alison Davey off her increasingly shaky perch. 

If Davey loses, it could mean that general manager Lea Rosser’s days are numbered. Many of the contenders are councillors who supported a no confidence vote in the general manager. 

Cessnock is an area Labor is hoping to win back, while Liberal Cordelia Burcham has also campaigned strongly.

6.20pm: At Lake Macquarie, we should soon have a better idea about who will succeed Greg Piper as mayor.  The focus of that race has been on the Harrisons – Independent Wendy Harrison and Labor’s Jodie Harrison. 

For Labor, this is an important election in the Hunter heartland. They party’s head office has helped bankroll local campaigns as it looks to rebuild support in the lead up to a Federal election. Tonight could be a good night for Labor, or a statement that the party’s heartland is indeed shrinking.

The other story at Lake Macquarie is the Back to Basics coalition, who have run in opposition to the council’s rates increase. They have been encouraged by their pre-poll showing.

6.10pm: There are some really interesting races tonight. 

In Newcastle, the city is picking a successor to lord mayor John Tate. Campaign volunteers for Jeff McCloy and Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes are both upbeat after balloting today.

The big talking point in Newcastle has been former jockey Allan Robinson, who turned his back on Aaron Buman’s ticket and backed Jeff McCloy

6pm: Hello and welcome to our live election coverage. 

Ben Smee here with you and we expect the first results for 11 Hunter councils to start rolling in about 7pm. 

You can share your thoughts by emailing bsmee@theherald.com.au or tweeting @bensmee.

Many of the elections are being run by a private contractor and results will not be available on the NSW electoral commission’s website. Let’s hope the counting goes more smoothly than some of the ballot draws last month.

Related coverage:

VIDEO: Newcastle Lord Mayoral Candidate Forum

Robbo turns back on running mate Buman, backs McCloy

LIVE BLOG: NSW council elections 

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