DON'T give me any of this "safe Labor seat' stuff", Sharon Claydon says about an hour into our interview.
"This city has a smart group of voters and Labor has never taken this city for granted. If we had been neglectful then I'd be extremely worried about us holding onto Newcastle, but we haven't."
Welcome to the Sharon and Jaimie show. The support act that may well end up becoming more fascinating than the Gillard-Abbott main event in September.
"Come on," Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott said only hours earlier.
"We're not taking anything for granted, because this city is sick of being taken for granted. I doorknock every day and people complain about the government doing nothing for Newcastle. They call [incumbent MP] Sharon Grierson 'Silent Sharon'. I don't call her that, but people call her that - they don't want another term of this government."
Sharon Grierson, of course, is retiring on September 14, so Newcastle voters will be installing one of two new faces into the office held by Labor for more than 100 years.
Sharon Claydon for Labor, Jaimie Abbott for the Liberals which, buoyed by the shellacking it gave Labor at the last state election, has eyes on changing the stripes of the undisputed king of Labor cities.
Three years ago, Grierson, a personal friend and staunch ally of Julia Gillard, hauled in almost 66 per cent of Newcastle's 93,000 voters in a two-party preferred count. There was a 3.4 per cent swing against her, but that was much less than the national swing against the Gillard government.
Then, Grierson faced off against Newcastle councillor Brad Luke who was endorsed as the Liberals' candidate only on the night before the 2010 election was called.
On primary votes, Grierson polled 39,253 votes, with Luke picking up 25,680. Of note, the Greens' Michael Osborne received almost 13,000 primary votes, with his supporters providing a large flow of preferences to Grierson.
The result gave Labor a 12.49 per cent margin, enough for the Australian Electoral Commission to again declare Newcastle as a "safe Labor seat".
Neither Jaimie Abbott or Sharon Claydon think that way.
"The difference is 5806 votes," Abbott says. "That's a 6.25 per cent swing against Labor that the Coalition needs to win Newcastle."
It's a big ask, no question, but the polls suggest this election will be different. Many pundits are wagering that the swing against Labor in some seats could be substantially higher than 6.25 per cent.
And voters in Newcastle have these two new faces to choose from:
Jaimie Abbott, unmarried, no children, aged 30, lives with two dogs at Georgetown, former Cardiff High School girl, into singing and animal welfare, ex-employee of Liberal MP for Paterson Bob Baldwin.
Sharon Claydon, unmarried, no children, aged 48, lives in Newcastle, former Lambton High School girl, into live music, former employee of incumbent Labor MP Sharon Grierson.
Jaimie Abbott, former journalist and defence force reservist who served in Afghanistan.
Sharon Claydon, social anthropologist and former Newcastle councillor who spent time as a stock camp cook and jillaroo at a remote cattle station in the Kimberley.
Somehow both ended up in the political trenches.
"When I left for Afghanistan, the carbon tax wasn't going to happen," Abbott says. "When I came back it was happening, and I thought 'I'm really angry about this - really angry about being lied to'.
"I said to my parents, 'You know, we've really had nothing in Newcastle, we've just had one Labor MP after another come into that federal seat of Newcastle and take us for granted.'
"My father Jack actually said, 'Well rather than sitting back and complaining about it, why don't you run? Take on Sharon Grierson.' So I am."
Sharon Claydon cut her political teeth on a number of community campaigns before being recruited into Sharon Grierson's election campaign as a volunteer.
"I'm a fifth-generation Novocastrian, from a family with lots of involvement in the community which has sometimes led to arguments around the dinner table," she says.
"I have a long commitment to getting to know my community, and my time on [Newcastle] council helped that.
"I used to do a lot of lobbying on community issues and that's how I got involved in politics. Sharon Grierson saw that I had a lot of opinions about policy and she asked me to come and work for her full-time.
"It was a big challenge for me, but a great opportunity because I got to open up another part of the world and see how all these things and laws that make a difference get made."
Hardly a door in Newcastle will remain unknocked before September 14. In fact, both women have been walking the city's streets for months already, chatting to the locals, patting their dogs, trying to explain carbon taxes, health and education reform, the national broadband network.
"I'm just not getting it," Claydon says when asked about the impact of the carbon tax on her campaign.
"Yes, people want to talk about rising living costs, but not the carbon tax which is only a small part of rising living costs.
"I think Tony Abbott did a fantastic job in scaring people, but now people are realising that the sky didn't fall in. People are getting increases in family assistance funding, increases to pensions, businesses are getting assistance to change the way they do things and the ones that aren't are realising that they have to be smarter about the way they use power and water."
Abbott says she has been bombarded with complaints about the carbon tax.
"I wouldn't be campaigning on carbon tax if it wasn't an issue," she says.
"I go doorknocking on the weekends and hear a couple of hundred people, especially small business owners, saying, 'Look, this carbon tax, it's got to go.'
"We kind of see the election as a referendum on the carbon tax. One of the first things we'll do if elected is get rid of it."
And the case studies are ready to roll.
"I spoke to one local business owner who spent $153,000 to switch his business over to a cleaner energy scheme with federal assistance," Claydon says. "He's now saving $60,000 a year in energy costs alone. He said to me he was pretty dirty on this carbon tax to start with, but he now says, 'You know what? We've just got to get smarter about this and now I get it.' "
Jaimie Abbott must have been knocking on different doors.
"Just last night I was talking to [a salon owner] who told me her electricity bill had gone up $600," she says.
"She's saying, 'Look, households get compensated but we as a small business don't.' "
On the national broadband network, Claydon says Labor is getting on with the job of setting Australia up for the future. Ms Abbott says "we can do it cheaper".
Sharon Claydon was there again recently when Labor committed $30 million in federal funding towards the cost of creating an inner-city campus for the University of Newcastle. The Liberals were pointing towards the rising cost of tertiary education.
Sharon Claydon champions the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the fact it will be trialled in the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Maitland council areas, as a major policy decision.
Jaimie Abbott champions an ambitious plan to spend $1 billion reducing red tape for small and medium-sized businesses and getting the economy "back into shape".
On the social radar, gay marriage remains a contentious sideline distraction.
"I believe it's something politicians should never have got involved in," Claydon says. "We never actually defined marriage as being between a man and a woman until John Howard changed the Marriage Act and gave it to us. I believe that one day [same-sex marriage] will become law and we will overcome what I consider to be a shameful patch on our history."
Jaimie Abbott will leave things as they are, for now.
"I am a Coalition candidate and our policy is that we believe that marriage is between a man and a woman," she says.
"When I speak to people, gay marriage is not a big issue. A few guys on my campaign team are gay but they say, right now, the economy is more important than gay marriage and we need to get that right first."
There's still four months to run in this campaign, so no one is too confident yet.
"We cannot afford another term of this government," Abbott says. "My job is to tell people about our plan for a better Newcastle.
"The people of Newcastle own this seat and I'm telling them there is an alternative - do you want the Labor you've always had or do you want a Liberal member in a Coalition government?"
That line bristles with Sharon Claydon.
"Labor has been sincere about this community. It has a great story of investment in Newcastle which is $2.5 billion since Labor won office - it's a difficult story to tell but I want to keep telling it," she says.
"We have a great future in this city. It would be foolish to take this seat for granted, but people here know who will stand up for them."