SWING RESULT: Hogan defies odds, gains margin
THERE was a cautious optimism in the Rous Hotel, as National Party supporters wandered in to watch the election result after the close of polls.
Dressed in their yellow shirts, fresh from a day of advocating for their man, sitting MP Kevin Hogan, they nervously waited for the results, and for Hogan himself to appear.
Just after 7pm, he arrived and stopped at the bar to buy a drink, greeted by a nervous clap, and smiles of recognition. With 10 per cent counted, he had a lead, but said it was "early days".
"I woke up this morning feeling very nervous," Mr Hogan said. "It's a strange job interview process where 122,000 people turn up for the interview, and you have to get half of them to like you."
More results arrived from volunteers, holding scrutineering numbers that pointed towards a victory, and now Mr Hogan wandered back into the room to cheers and applause, his lead extending all the while.
He walked through the room, and along with his family shook the hand of every volunteer there, embracing them with a personal message of thanks.
The lead was now unassailable, and almost improbable from national polling numbers. Approaching a 10% lead, his phone rang, and the room went silent.
Labor opponent Patrick Deegan was calling to concede.
Mr Hogan stood on the landing of their room, his wife and three children by his side.
"I've just been called by Patrick Deegan and he has conceded the seat of Page to the Nationals," he said.
The room erupted. There were cheers, claps, hugs and tears. Returned for a third term, Mr Hogan turned his attention away from himself.
He paid tribute to his staff, who he said had helped keep the community at the forefront of what they did. His volunteers next, giving particular credit to a team of young volunteers who had helped not only call the electorate twice, but doorknocked the entire electorate, from Sapphire Beach in the south to Woodenbong in the north and right through the Clarence Valley.
"It's about talking to people, asking them what's going on, where the community is at and asking them what's your issues, what's important in your life," Mr Hogan said.
"I have a great staff and we make sure we look after people and we've advocated for them.
"I always say that we're here for our community. We are a community office and politics comes second. Whenever we get a phone call, whenever we get an email, we go 'How do we help this person and what can we do for them'?"
Finally, he thanked his family - wife Karen and children, who he said were the "conscripts" of his career as a politician, and dedicated an individual tribute to their support and guidance.
And with a raucous cheer, he searched for a beer and walked back into the crowd.
"I'm very humbled," he told the Daily Examiner in a interview later. "I've obviously worked as hard as I can, but for the community to give me such overwhelming support is very humbling.
"I love our community and I'll try to continue to do the best for them."
As for why he had turned in one of the best results across the country, with a 7 per cent swing, he was frank.
"I'm only guessing. You have to go out and ask the community," he laughed.
"But I always feel very welcomed. I love getting around and talking to everyone and people are very generous in chatting to me. I keep hearing 'You're doing a good job Kev,' as opposed to being hit over the head."
"It is very, very humbling."
"I don't know if the campaign was the determining factor," Mr Hogan said.
"It sounds cliche but I don't focus on polling numbers, but I had a feeling that we were okay.
"I always say I'm never confident but I'm always optimistic."
Mr Hogan said that the combination of a Coalition state and federal government had led to a building boom, particularly in the Clarence Valley that allowed people to see progress.
"There's been more cranes in the sky, more stuff being built than ever, the highways, jails, roads, bridges - there's stuff happening everywhere."
Much has been said of Mr Hogan's move to the crossbench, and he said he would reserve his view on future plans until a government was formed.
"I like to say I say what I believe, and I do what I say. I said I would sit on the crossbench and review it in the next parliament, and I will review it," he said.
"But I'm not reviewing it tonight."
He wouldn't be drawn on any future National Party moves, and said he wouldn't talk of any speculation about a returned Barnaby Joyce returning to the Nationals leadership.
"I'm not going there tonight, but at the moment I can say that if we take government it will be amazing given where we've come from," he said.
"This result has defied everyone's expectations, and with all due respect Scott Morrison and Michael McCormack have to take a lot of credit for that.
With the numbers growing for the Coalition by the minute, Mr Hogan said it had been an amazing result, both locally and nationally.
"We have a great democracy, and I said tonight the Australian people don't get it wrong, even when they don't vote us in," he said.
"But I am still very humbled by this. Election campaigns are emotional times, they're intense times... I thank the people of Page, I thank the community - they have put their faith and trust in me and us again.. and I will continue to work my absolute butt off for the community."