IT was an emphatic victory.
Aaron Buman told his volunteers they could pack up at lunch.
Brad Luke’s challenge was over as soon as the first numbers from the booths came in.
Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes will lead Newcastle City Council as lord mayor until 2016, continuing her party’s resurgence after regaining the state seats of Newcastle and Charlestown last month.
Cr Nelmes’ election confirms that voters are willing to give Labor another go, but it has come on the back of many promises.
Cr Nelmes has promised to get the expansion of Newcastle Art Gallery back on track, to reintroduce funding for war memorial services and to unwind the cuts to lifeguards at the city’s beaches.
She has vowed to reintroduce environmental programs previously cut, to protect public pools and protect council jobs.
Cr Nelmes’ agenda isn’t just a new direction for the council, it’s a 180-degree turn.
This is a council that in recent years has cut services, programs and staff as it attempts to get its budget back in the black. This is a council previously run by a bloc of mostly conservative and independent councillors in agreeance that cuts had to be made.
Cr Nelmes’ election does not simply challenge that dynamic.
As well as increasing expenditure to improve council services, Cr Nelmes also opposes the cut to the heavy rail line into Newcastle.
This, of course, is in direct opposition to the state government’s plan to start ripping the line up next month, which was previously supported by former lord mayor Jeff McCloy.
Together with Newcastle’s new state Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp, the volume of opposition to the removal of the rail line has grown a little louder with Cr Nelmes’ election, providing a contrast to the previous harmony between the Coalition, its now former Liberal MPs for Newcastle and Charlestown and Mr McCloy.
But just as voters will have another say on the state government and its MPs in March, some voters in Newcastle will also be able to express a view at the ballot box with regards to the council in the near future.
A byelection will now be held for Cr Nelmes’ vacant seat in Ward 3.
Voters already fatigued by the state byelection will be forced to trudge back to the ballot box again in the coming months.
Another vote and a new councillor could alter the political dynamic in Newcastle once again.
If voters were previously frustrated with a lack of direction for Newcastle, they will be exhausted by the opportunities they’ve had to shape their city during this period of profound change.