LIBERAL MP Bill Tilley has held on to his North East seat by just over 2000 votes from independent challenger Jacqui Hawkins.
The Wodonga-based MP had a nervous wait on Tuesday as preferences of the six Victorian election candidates in the district of Benambra were counted.
At 7pm the Victorian Electoral Commission published the final result which saw Mr Tilley on 21,715 votes and Ms Hawkins on 19,690, a margin of 2025.
On a percentage basis, Mr Tilley had 52.45 and Ms Hawkins 47.55.
The result means the former policeman has won a fourth team, after entering parliament in 2006.
“It’s certainly a relief after what has now been ten days since the general state election,” Mr Tilley said.
Asked about the tightness of the contest he offered a guarded response.
“In stark comparison to other campaigns there’s certainly a different mood,” Mr Tillley said.
“I will share with the electorate my views on that in coming days, views about the importance of government and the parliament and the contributions we make from both sides, whether it is in government or opposition, for the sake of our respective districts.”
Ms Hawkins was “very happy” with the result, saying it was beyond her hopes.
“I think this sends a very, very strong message to the Liberal Party about the representation that people want in the community,” Ms Hawkins said.
“They want somebody that is visible and someone that is local that represents them.”
Ms Hawkins congratulated Mr Tilley and said she would not be entering the Voices for Indi process to run federally in the North East.
Fellow independent Jenny O’Connor, who ran fourth behind Labor, said the outcome offered a strong message.
“I think the lesson is very clear and that is that no local members are safe,” Ms O’Connor said.
“The lesson is clear, work hard for your community, listen to what they’re saying and you’ll be rewarded for that.
“The issue with Bill was that people were saying that he hasn’t tried hard enough, whether that’s true or not I don’t know.”
Scrutineers for Mr Tilley at the VEC office in Wodonga on Tuesday included fellow Liberal MPs Bernie Finn, Brad Battin and Richard Riordan.
They will now participate in a ballot on Thursday to determine the new leader of the Liberal Party, following Matthew Guy’s resignation last week.
With Hawthorn MP John Pesutto narrowly losing his Melbourne seat, treasury spokesman Michael O’Brien is the favourite to win the vote and in turn become Opposition leader.