By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Greens candidate Rhonda Garad has held off a big-spending challenge from ALP fruit-and-vegetable chain-store owner Stephen Fanous to win the City of Greater Dandenong’s Keysborough South Ward.
“It proves that you can’t buy an election,” a “stunned” Ms Garad said.
She estimated that Mr Fanous outspent her campaign ten-fold with multiple mailouts, fridge magnets, help of a marketing agency, high quality videos and a billboard truck.
But his saturation campaign got to the stage of “annoying people”, she said.
“At times I didn’t give myself a chance.
“I’m so glad a grass roots campaign took it out.”
Another rival’s camp relentless attack on her eventually turned voters towards her. She acknowledged that Mr Fanous ran a positive campaign that didn’t personally attack her
Ms Garad, who ran strongly against Green Wedge development, said her first priority was “champagne with my team in half-an-hour”.
Leading into the preference count on 5 November, Ms Garad held a precarious 219-primary vote lead over Mr Fanous.
After preferences, she drew away.
The expected flow of preferences to Mr Fanous didn’t materialise.
On how-to-vote cards, he was preferenced higher by fellow ALP candidates Gam Le and Ramy El-Sukkari, blue-and-yellow independent Jeruisha Williams and three other running mates.
Ms Garad drew a large portion of third-placed ALP member Jessica Halliday’s preferences.
It was clear Ms Halliday was “sent in as the Anglo environmentally minded female to split my vote”, she said. But the pair became close during the campaign, and preferenced each other.
Ms Garad is the only Green councillor-elect, succeeding Matthew Kirwan who helped her campaign.
A majority of the 11-member council will be ALP members, including Angela Long (Cleeland), Jim Memeti (Dandenong), Sophie Tan (Noble Park), Lana Formoso (Noble Park North), Richard Lim (Springvale Central), Sean O’Reilly (Springvale North) and Eden Foster (Yarraman).
Liberal member Tim Dark won Keysborough Ward by 90 votes – though runner-up and ALP member Phillip Danh has applied to the Victorian Electoral Commission for a recount.
Dandenong North and Springvale South wards are expected to be decided on Friday 6 November.