Labor stalwart Peter Watson gets a cross-party farewell on his final election day lap of Albany
Volunteers from across party lines shook hands with retiring Albany MP Peter Watson this morning on his “last big lap” of the electorate.
Mr Watson, who retired as Legislative Assembly Speaker this year, said not seeing his name on the ballot for the first time in two decades was bittersweet.
“It is happy and sad. It has been a wonderful journey over the last 20 years and I’d like to thank the people of Albany for their support,” he said.
“Not everyone votes for me, there have been a lot of close ones but I’ll miss it. I’m looking forward to the future and what lays ahead.”
Asked whether he believed a McGowan Government landslide would trickle down to Albany, Mr Watson said he was confident Labor candidate Rebecca Stephens would do a “tremendous job” representing her hometown in Parliament.
“She is a doer...and she is always positive and looking for new ways to do things,” he said
“I think if she does get in she will be a tremendous ambassador for Albany and the first women member of parliament from Albany.
“I am looking forward to following her future.”
Around Albany this morning, candidates were supported by their families as they made their final push for votes.
Liberal candidate Scott Leary joined his 21-year-old son Matthew at Flinders Park Primary School as soon as polls opened at 8am this morning before handing out flyers among a sea of blue signs.
Volunteers exchanged friendly swipes from across the pathway as voters made their way to the polls, with one voter loudly and proudly announcing his support for Mr Leary while swiping away a rainbow of how-to-vote cards.
“I am still full of energy for Albany and really excited for today, even after 13 days straight standing on pre-poll,” Mr Leary said.
“My hope is for Albany, because I think I can do a lot down here.
“What happens on a State-level, they’re metrocentric at best — both parties — but I am interested in Albany.
“It’s actually not about me, it’s about Albany and I think I can do great things and drive us forward.”
The final days of Mr Leary’s campaign have been marred by controversy after his comments questioning the timing of rape allegations against Attorney-General Christian Porter caused backlash this week.
In an at-times contradictory interview aired on ABC radio on Thursday, Mr Leary questioned why allegations against Mr Porter had “come to the surface” after 33 years in the lead up to the WA State election.
But the Albany City Motors director said he still had “great support” from the community and pre-polling had been a great opportunity to speak one-on-one with voters.
“People have come to me saying they weren’t going to vote Liberal because they were not confident with the leadership and what was happening in Perth,” he said.
“But we had some long discussions about what I can do locally and they have swung their vote back to Lib.”
Albany Labor candidate Rebecca Stephens also stopped by Flinders Park Primary School this morning, with “Watto” and her family by her side for the “surreal” day.
Ms Stephens has been widely tipped to hold onto the seat for Labor, but said regardless of the “hype” of the McGowan Government, she was confident her credentials could stand up on their own.
“I think I still would’ve had a really good opportunity following in Peter’s footsteps and with my background,” she said.
“I think we’ve definitely got the support of the McGowan Government and riding on the tail of Mark and his popularity and what he has done during COVID.”
Ms Stephens said it had been great to accompany Mr Watson on his “last big lap around Albany” today.
“It has been a good 12 months so it is great to get to the day and enjoy the day,” she said.
“I’m not nervous, I’m just excited and feel that we have run a really good campaign.”
Ms Stephens said it had been humbling to see her community’s willingness to help along the way.
“Being born and bred in Albany, I have had role models along the way from primary school to high school to my small business and even on council,” she said.
“The most overwhelming thing was seeing how many people want to support me and on the days when I didn’t want to get out and door-knock or I was getting down, these people just give me that support and lifted me up, kept me going and kept me strong.”
As was the case with more than 55 per cent of Albany electors, both Mr Leary and Ms Stephens had already cast their vote before election day at Albany’s early voting centre.
Across town, Albany Nationals WA candidate Delma Baesjou had the support of her daughter Cass as she cast her vote at the Albany Senior Citizens Centre.
In a WA-first community pre-selection process, the Nats left it to the punters to choose their “people’s champion”, with Ms Baesjou selected in August.
Ms Baesjou said she had “mixed emotions” about finally casting her vote.
“There is a slight sense of relief because it has been such a long journey but polling day is so much what we are about and we always do well,” she said.
Ms Baesjou said she believed the race for Albany had come down to “a two-way tie”, with the electorate set to welcome its first female MP.
“Albany has always been an outlier and what was traditionally a very conservative area has been under the Labor for the last four years,’ she said.
“I am extremely optimistic it has come down to, I think, a two-way tie.
“My chances are better than even...we won’t give up until the last vote is counted.
“It is going to be interesting, given that pretty much 50 per cent of the population have already voted in Albany so a lot of people have made up their minds. It is a very different and interesting election.
“I want to thank anyone that has been a part of this wonderful journey and the tremendous effort people have put in to assist with what has been a very complex and tricky process.
“It has been a long haul.”
Albany Greens WA candidate Nelson Gilmour braved the cold at the Senior Citizens Centre this morning, welcoming voters and giving the Advertiser his thoughts on the vote.
Mr Gilmour said despite a tiring pre-polling run “vibes are high”.
“I think the Mark McGowan card has been really overplayed in Albany,” he said.
“I think the Liberals could win with National and One Nation preferences but I hope a woman wins.
“I hope that if they do, they quit their party, go independent and disown any fossil fuel donations.”
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