Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin, centre, is flanked by Clarence candidates at the recent GP super clinic sod turning in Grafton. Candidates are, from left, Colin Clague (ALP), Richie Williamson (Independent) and incumbent Steve Cansdell (Nationals).
Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin, centre, is flanked by Clarence candidates at the recent GP super clinic sod turning in Grafton. Candidates are, from left, Colin Clague (ALP), Richie Williamson (Independent) and incumbent Steve Cansdell (Nationals).

Battle for the seat of Clarence

TWO of the leading contenders in today's election agree on one thing – this is the most important election in a generation.

According to incumbent Steve Cansdell, this is the electorate's first chance in eight years to have a representative in government.

Independent contender Richie Williamson reckons it's an opportunity to leave behind the status quo in which the Clarence has been “overlooked, forgotten and ignored”.

Labor's candidate Colin Clague is looking to retain government services in the area.

The Greens representative Janet Cavanaugh has the same view but would also like to “foster the long-term survival of our fishing and timber industries” through the health of rivers and forests.

Ms Cavanaugh, like Mr Williamson, is hankering after “real change for NSW”.

The two youngest candidates appear to be among the most conservative.

Bethany Camac from the Christian Democratic Party contends that farmers and fishers and foresters need more support while Kristen Bromell, 18, from Family First, says he'll push for the quick “replacement or/and upgrade of the Grafton bridge” and further floodproofing of the Clarence's assets.

As to who is likely to win, no one can say for sure.

Mr Williamson said he can't afford opinion polls, Mr Clague said the ALP only conducted polls in marginal seats (which Clarence is no longer) and the National Party head office refused to release results of its opinion polls.

Having said all that, Mr Cansdell, who is facing his fourth state election today, said yesterday he was feeling confident.

“The amount of support I've had for this election seems to be greater than any previous election,” he said.

“It's been a hard campaign and it's become personal, which I don't like.”

Mr Williamson said he'd be mowing his “out of control” lawn tomorrow after a hectic campaign.

Asked if he would run again regardless of today's result, Mr Williamson said “absolutely”.

He said he would remain on Clarence Valley Council if voted into the seat of Clarence today, before stepping down at the September 2012 election.

Ms Cavanaugh, who among other things crashed her car on her way to a campaign event, said she was looking forward to some sleep and some housework tomorrow.

She said she hoped to improve on The Greens' 7% vote in 2007.

“We are hoping to get to double figures – 10% would be good,” she said.

“I want Steve Cansdell to get a run for his money so the Clarence Valley is not considered a safe National seat ... Coffs Harbour is growing at the cost of the Clarence.”

Mr Clague said yesterday he was looking forward to relaxing tomorrow after the weight and pressure of campaigning.

He said he hoped to improve on the ALPs 10,700 Clarence votes in the 2007 election but that he really had “no idea” how he would go.



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