CATHY McGowan, now officially member for Indi, is already set on fighting the 2016 federal election.
After a nail-biting 16 days and 20 hours, at 2pm yesterday the Australian Electoral Commission confirmed the independent candidate from the Indigo Valley had won by 431 votes.
With the final votes counted on Saturday morning, Ms McGowan finished 431 votes ahead of the former member of 12 years, Liberal Sophie Mirabella.
It was the closest finish Indi has seen in 112 years.
Ms McGowan claimed 50.24 per cent on a two candidate preferred basis (44,742 votes), while Mrs Mirabella finished on 49.76 per cent (44,311 votes).
Up to 150 people turned out to the Wangaratta Rovers clubrooms for the announcement, far more than the customary handful at such formalities, which are usually held at the small AEC office in central Wangaratta.
Mrs Mirabella was not among them.
After Indi returning officer Jenny Essex’s announcement of the final tally, Ms McGowan thanked her and the AEC officials who had worked tirelessly the past fortnight.
“On the one hand, I’m sorry we couldn’t make it easier on you, but you persisted and persisted,” she said.
Ms McGowan acknowledged the 10 other candidates for their efforts and the team of 600-plus volunteers behind her campaign.
“Clearly this is not a job for one person,” she said.
“It was impossible without them.”
She reiterated her keenness to keep working with the community in consultation, and having “a close relationship” with the grassroots group Voice 4 Indi, particularly in the lead up to next year’s Indi Summit.
“In three years, I want to be back here,” she said.
“My task is really delivering for Indi what it needs.”
Labor candidate Robyn Walsh was present and took the opportunity to thank her team.
She hoped Ms McGowan’s campaign would “set a new standard for Australian political parties”.
Ms McGowan and her team, including three of her young campaigners, will spend the next fortnight setting up offices in Wangaratta and Canberra and planning policies.
Ms McGowan will take over Mrs Mirabella’s electorate office in Murphy Street, Wangaratta.
“They said we can have a choice for the sign up the top — it can be orange and black, or orange and white,” she said.
It will definitely be orange.