ELECTION WRAP: The election campaign has had plenty of twists, turns and excitement over the past month.
ELECTION WRAP: The election campaign has had plenty of twists, turns and excitement over the past month. Contributed

Election wrap: Drama will continue as Rocky votes counted

THIS was my first election campaign to cover as a journalist and it has been a fantastic roller coaster ride.

Rockhampton has been a Labor stronghold for the best part of the past 100 years, but the result is too close to call this time around.

After incumbent MP Bill Byrne retired for health reasons, an ugly Labor pre-selection process played out just before the election was called.

It pitted the right faction and premier's pick Rockhampton's mayor Margaret Strelow against the left's public housing boss Barry O'Rourke, who was ultimately selected.

Frustrated with the political focus for the region and the Annastacia Palaszczuk's decision to veto the NAIF loan for Adani, Ms Strelow threw her hat into the ring as an independent and the race suddenly got interesting.

Poll results had Labor down with their vote split with Ms Strelow, the LNP down and split to One Nation and the Greens up slightly.

The key issues for the campaign were power prices, renewable energy, employment and projects like Adani's Carmichael mine, Rookwood Weir, the South Rocky Flood Levee, Browne Park expansion, maintaining frontline services, health funding, education funding including a Gracemere high school, a study into the Gap Dam, and roads infrastructure including a third bridge and ring road.

The candidate's opinions on these issues have been gathered in large Morning Bulletin stories and fought over at debates at Gracemere, CQUniversity and the Ag forum.

READ: Rocky Council's election wish list: Can candidates deliver?

READ: Candidates on the South Rocky flood levee

READ: CQ candidates on retaining Net Free Zones

READ: Rocky candidates reveal positions on Gracemere high school

READ: Browne Park expansion

READ: Rocky candidates' mixed responses on economic development

Labor's Mr O'Rourke, as a political newbie, had a dramatic learning curb this campaign.

He has stuck to the script and gradually grown in confidence hammering the LNP on their history of damaging job cuts record for the region at every opportunity.

The visit of Labor's 'Cuts Express' bus drove that message further home.

LNP candidate Douglas Rodgers knew he'd be up against it trying to dislodge Labor, but with his background in political media he was across the issues, confident, plain speaking and doing his best to placate a cuts-wary community.

Committing to funding Rookwood Weir without seeing the business plan was risky but should win him votes.

One Nation's Wade Rothery spent the first week listening to people before emerging on the back of strong poll numbers.

His straight-talking style appeals to voters disaffected by the majors and has played well with the electorate.

He could outstrip the LNP vote and consequently secure the two-party preferred votes.

He has been ably supported by Pauline Hanson's Battler Bus and thwarted by sign vandals, but with no large no big spending promises besides Rookwood and slashing power costs, questions remain if there were enough carrots for voters.

Political veteran Ms Strelow gamely self-funded her campaign and with daily press conferences has driven the political agenda targeting pressing issues for the region.

With her Krummies bread crumbs constantly driving home the message our region was being short changed and her blank how to vote forms, Ms Strelow was the election X-factor with her preferences possibly deciding the result.

Kate Giamarelos from The Greens has been low key in the election.

With work and study commitments she has been rarely sighted except for emailed comments and the Adani protest, but throughout the campaign she has stayed on messaging in keeping with her party's environmentally focused agenda.

The battle of Rockhampton is incomplete without mentioning the major party's leaders; Ms Palaszczuk has visited twice while LNP leader Tim Nicholls was content to let others carry his message - possibly an acknowledgement of the uphill battle the party faced to secure the seat.

I can't wait to see how this result plays out from 6pm today.

Grab your popcorn, this is going to be a doozey.

We'll have you covered with updates online throughout the evening and a full wrap in Monday's print edition.



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