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When Rob Oakeshott drew a line in the sand on ballot draw day, the race for the seat of Cowper was officially declared.
Incumbent Luke Hartsuyker has spent most of Saturday rallying the troops in Port Macquarie while Oakeshott chose to start his election day campaign north in Coffs Harbour.
Hartsukyer would not be drawn on The Nationals’ campaign tactics following the announcement of Oakeshott’s intention to contest the seat, sticking to the party message of stability, jobs and growth as he met voters in Port Macquarie.
“The people of Cowper deserve someone who can sit at the table of government rather than being a voice in the wilderness,” Mr Hartsuyker said.
“I’ve put a very strong case for my re-election and my views are there for all to see. It will be up to the people of Cowper to make their judgement.”
Mr Oakeshott said he strategically did not buy into any attempts to smear his name or campaign, choosing to play it clean to the very end. He was critical of The Nationals’ big spend on ‘hate TV, hate radio, hate mailouts’.
“There’s certainly momentum on the side of Oakeshott Independent, the question is – is there enough momentum to get us across the line for a win,” he said.
“Regardless of the result at the ballot box, this is a seat now that will not, and cannot be taken for granted over the next three years. So whoever is the member after this Saturday, they will be very busy and the government will be paying a lot of attention to the Mid North and Coffs Coast from now on in.”
Mr Oakeshott said he hasn’t run a traditional campaign with social media platforms key tools in engaging the Cowper audience.
“It’s been a tight campaign, it’s been mistake free and we’ve engaged as many people as we can in the time that we’ve got.
“We’ve purposely tried to do it in a positive way.”
He believed voters would be questioning whether they have had a return on 14 years of incumbency and added that this election, in the south, would also be a referendum on his 17 years in politics.
Mr Hartsuyker will spend Saturday night in Coffs Harbour as the electorate awaits a result. Mr Oakeshott will be with friends, family and supporters in Port Macquarie.