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Rudd defeated: It's Tony time
For the first time in 23 years of political life in the New England area there was no Tony Windsor and for just over 102,000 voters in the federal northern NSW seat, it presented a real dilemma for many yesterday at polling booths.
The Independent power broker in the last government held sway for 12 years as the local federal member and before that nearly as many years in state parliament.
While just over 10 weeks ago locals were looking to a real stoush and a bonza of a battle between Windsor and the former Queensland senator Barnaby Joyce, most of the puff went out of the fight when Windsor retired - and Joyce was basically left looking around for someone else to spar with.
In the end nine candidates lined up for yesterday's poll, among them two new Independents looking to put up a big show.
But the star has been Joyce, although there's been plenty of suspicions among the progressives in the electorate that the man who can strangle a sentence in a single comment and has his sights set on the Nationals leadership after Warren Truss moves on, might just end up to be an absentee member.
There are many who fear this election will deliver the Member for Barnaby rather than the new member for New England. Joyce denies he will be an absentee member even if, as expected, he lands a ministerial position.
He was fully expecting on Saturday night to be called to a coalition leadership team meeting perhaps as early as Sunday.
He's campaigned tirelessly for nearly four months, crisscrossing the huge tablelands and plains region from dawn to dusk, trying to convince voters he's a legitimate heir to the once-Nationals stronghold.
He's had to endure the Second Choice Joyce tag too given the spectacular fall from grace of the Nationals' first pick draft candidate Richard Torbay earlier this year under suspicion and reportedly, ICAC investigation. Torbay fell to earth and Joyce was parachuted in.
Joyce, who grew up in the region, yesterday voted at the tiny Woolbrook school, 65km north east of Tamworth. He was the captain of the primary school there and his parents still live not too far away from that polling booth that last election delivered just 163 voters.
But Joyce added a few hundred kilometres for the rest of polling day and by mid afternoon after tracking across about 20 different centres in an electorate of 60,000 square kilometres, he was back in Tamworth. Joyce was "quietly confident but not cocky."
"I'm just so happy the campaign is over but I have tried to do a big city, small town and remote area each day, but it has been tiring," Joyce said.
"The mood has been good. I think people will give us the benefit of the doubt but you've always got to be extremely careful you don't sound egotistical, otherwise people will take a chip out of you."
At polling booths the mood was pretty subdued given the bright sunny day - but around the region most pundits were more interested in the rash of grand finals footy battles being played out.
He was expecting to have a good idea of the outcome by about 7.30pm last night and admitted that he really did need to get enough primaries to get him over the line.
He'd planned his after-party, political party night at a local club, where he reckoned he was going to celebrate with the faithful at a night that was "going to be as funny as a bag of cats over there".