Two horse race: Labor's Jeff Drayton still holding onto hope despite Nationals looking set to retain seat of Upper Hunter

NOT CONCEDING: Labor leader Jodi McKay (left) and Labor candidate for Upper Hunter Jeff Drayton (right) with a large crowd of party supporters at the Muswellbrook Workers Club on Saturday night.
NOT CONCEDING: Labor leader Jodi McKay (left) and Labor candidate for Upper Hunter Jeff Drayton (right) with a large crowd of party supporters at the Muswellbrook Workers Club on Saturday night.

DESPITE early ballot results indicating the Nationals will retain the seat of Upper Hunter, Labor candidate Jeff Drayton still believes his party has a chance in what is now a two horse race.

The Nationals had won 31.2 per cent of the first preference vote with 56.1 per cent of ballots counted on Saturday night.

Labor's vote sat at 20.8 per cent, followed by One Nation with 13.8 per cent and Shooters Farmers Fishers at 12.9 per cent.

Although admitting the results were a blow, Labor leader Jodi McKay had not conceded on Saturday night.

"There's still hope, but it's going to be extremely difficult," Jeff Drayton said at the party's large gathering in Muswellbrook.

"Certainly there's always hope there.

"We knew it was going to be difficult from the moment we started.

"The Nationals have held the seat for 90 years, so it was always going to be difficult."

Regardless of the result, Mr Drayton said he is incredibly proud of what he's managed to achieve for the electorate in a short period of time.

"One thing I'm going to make sure - and certainly that the party is keen to make sure - is that it's not just more promises by the Nats, they need to now fulfil those promises.

"And they need to fulfil them now - in the time frame that they've committed to."

Over in Scone, a small gathering of supporters for independent candidate Kirsty O'Connell congratulated the local farmer and advocate for the impact she has made.

Kirsty O'Connell spent Election night with supporters at Scone RSL reflecting on the impact her campaign has made.

Kirsty O'Connell spent Election night with supporters at Scone RSL reflecting on the impact her campaign has made.

With 8.4 per cent of first preference votes, the fifth highest, she had received more than double the vote of the closest independent candidate Tracy Norman with 3.8 per cent, based on votes counted on Saturday night.

Ms O'Connell said she was proud of her achievements given the short time-frame of her campaign.

She said for an independent with a month to prepare and a budget of $60,000, it was an excellent result and she would continue to stand up for what she believes in.

"We've had a magnificent group of about 50 volunteers and a core team of probably around 10, so considering that resource compared to all of the parties that we were competing against, I just think it's a magnificent result," she said.

"I think more importantly we have changed the conversation, at the start of this campaign you had four parties all coming out saying 'we love coal' and 'the way we love coal, is to have a whole lot more new coal'.

"There was really serious commitment from those parties to just keep opening new mines, they were all absolutely resolved that they did not want to discuss transition at all.

"But now we've got discussion about having an expert panel, it's not a revolution, it's a shift and that shift came because we were part of the conversation."

The final result isn't expected until the remainder of the pre-poll votes are counted in the next few days.

This story Nationals on track to retain Upper Hunter, but Labor not conceding yet first appeared on Hunter Valley News.

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