Labor's Nuatali Nelmes has convincingly won Newcastle's lord mayoral byelection, cruising to victory with more than 42 per cent of the primary vote.
The 38-year-old from Merewether, who becomes the city's first female lord mayor since the popular Joy Cummings, paid tribute to her supporters and opponents when declaring victory on Saturday night at Carrington's Seven Seas Hotel, and vowed to continue the city's revitalisation.
With all booth counts and pre-poll votes in, Ms Nelmes secured 42.24 per cent of the primary vote, with independent Brad Luke proving to be her nearest rival with almost 24 per cent of first preferences. Therese Doyle has improved on the Greens' 2012 result, securing more than 14 per cent of primaries, with independent Aaron Buman getting 11 per cent.
"I want to protect and restore council services," Ms Nelmes said amid noisy scenes and cheering supporters.
"I've campaigned on that stance, I've been elected on that stance. We need to continue the revitalisation of our city and, to be honest, a lot of people I have spoken to are not happy about the rail line being cut. They feel like they've been cheated. They want improved public transport, not less.
"I just want to keep that going and make the council as open and progressive as possible."
Mr Luke paid tribute to Ms Nelmes, saying "the people have voted, they've made their choice and we all have to get on with things".
"At the end of the day, you've got to put your hand up and run, especially when you have no confidence in the other candidates who are running," Mr Luke said. "I think I lost a lot of votes to Aaron which is unfortunate, but congratulations to Nuatali."
Mr Buman said he was disappointed with the result, and had been hopeful of beating Mr Luke.
"I take my hat off to Nuatali," Mr Buman said.
"But I can't say I have high hopes for Newcastle council. I think it's about to implode. Therese Doyle will probably be elected the deputy - we're in trouble."
While full counting is yet to come in, it appears that at least 25,000 people failed to vote in Saturday's byelection. The voter turnout will be in the vicinity of 70 per cent which, while low compared to full elections, is better than most local government byelections.
"The thing that disappoints me with that is the number of people who rock up to polling booths saying they didn't know an election was on, or they don't know who the candidates are," Mr Buman said. "Fair dinkum, I don't understand it and it's really disappointing. Still, that's how people are and I suppose we have to accept it."
Ms Doyle said she was "very pleased" with the result.
"The byelection shows a swing towards the Labor party and the Greens and away from the 'conservative experiment'," she said.
"This represents quite a change for Newcastle. Labor and the Greens have done very well at the expense of the parties who were dealing in shady practices."
Independent David Chapman also congratulated Ms Nelmes but said she will need to be accountable for her election promises.
"She has made a lot of promises, including to vocal minorities, so the community will be disappointed if this means she can’t deliver on projects they really want," he said.
"The alternative will be more years of special requests for rate rises above the allowed maximum. The clear message to the Liberal Government is they had their chance to make Newcastle their own and blew it. We won’t tolerate decisions seen to be based on improper influence and conflicts of interest."
The election of Ms Nelmes means that her existing seat on the council will need to be filled. That means yet anotherbyelection for many Newcastle voters, but this time only for voters living in Ward 3 which includes Kotara, New Lambton,Waratah and Jesmond. That byelection is likely to be held in February.