‘Drop in’ Kristina Keneally is set to lose a safe Labor seat in south-west Sydney after a local independent decimated the ALP’s 14 per cent margin.
The ALP appears to be paying the price for parachuting in the former Premier over a much-loved local Labor candidate for the seat of Fowler.
Fairfield Deputy Mayor Dai Le has punished her in the booths so far with the ABC projecting Ms Keneally, a former NSW Premier, will lose the seat, and her place in Parliament.
The Labor luminary has suffered a brutal swing against her of more than 18 per cent with over half the vote already counted.
Fowler has been a traditional Labor safe seat since it was created in 1984.
The former NSW Premier (pictured) looked confident early on Saturday as she attended polling centres in the seat of Fowler
Independent challenger Ms Lei (pictured) was counting on picking up votes from voters disillusioned with the major parties
When preferences are taken into account, Dai Le is leading Kristine Keneally in the tight-knit seat
Ms Le trailed not far behind the former New South Wales Premier on first preference votes.
But when second preferences are counted, independent Dai Le led 51.9 to 48.1 per cent in the two-party-preferred basis.
Ms Keneally addressed her party faithful to thank them for their support as both candidates in Fowler will continue to anxiously watch as the votes are counted.
‘Now, I know that we are here tonight to have a celebration and, yet, as we are here, gathered this evening, it is not entirely clear yet the result in Fowler, and I do want to congratulate Dai Le and Courtney on the campaigns that they ran.
‘Friends, we are all here tonight because we believe that Australia deserve, indeed that Australia deserve of and needs a better future, and that better future is a Labor government,’ Ms Keneally said.
Until recently Ms Keneally lived on Scotland Island on the city’s northern beaches – far from the seat which includes Cabramatta and Liverpool in Sydney’s south-west.
Migration lawyer, Tu Le (pictured), was Labor’s original candidate for the seat but was dropped in favour of Kristina Keneally
Ms Keneally was chosen by the Labor executive over talented local Vietnamese-Australia lawyer Tu Le.
At the time the 30-year-old migration lawyer blasted the Labor Party for crushing her dreams of becoming a federal MP representing her local community.
Ms Le hit out at Labor for overlooking her, calling for more ethnic diversity in parliament while attacking local community groups who then supported Senator Keneally when it became clear the shadow home affairs minister would win pre-selection.
‘I’m calling this out because it is downright WRONG for our leaders to use their positions of power for their own personal gains,’ Ms Le wrote in a Facebook post.
‘Whether it’s in the highest offices of this country or at the community level, we should NEVER accept this behaviour from those who represent us.’
Ms Le said she doesn’t ‘hold it against’ those who did not support her and quoted the Buddha, saying: ”Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”.’
But Ms Keneally is still heavily favoured to win the seat, barring a huge backlash to accusations of being a ‘carpetbagger’.
Ms Le attacked Labor for relying on ‘superficial connections to our diverse communities’ and said the party needs more diversity among its politicians.
Independent candidate Dai Le has based her campaign on appealing to local values, Ms Le (pictured) is the current Deputy Mayor of Fairfield
The south-west electorate is one of Sydney’s most diverse seats, known for being the hub of Sydney’s Vietnamese community.
Ms Keneally faced criticism for being chosen to represent the suburb, as she until recently lived on Scotland Island in a small enclave in the northern beaches of Sydney.
Independent challenger Ms Lei was riding on the coattails of voter disillusionment with the major parties, hoping that factor would be enough to boost her into parliament.
She also campaigned heavily against Ms Keneally, calling the former Senator a holidaymaker and saying she didn’t belong in the seat.
Liberal candidate Courtney Nguyen trails both Ms Keneally and Ms Le by a fair margin with a 19 per cent negative swing against her in first preferences.
Ms Nguyen faced an uphill battle campaigning against any Labor candidate as the seat has been deep red since its conception.
The seat was previously held by retiring Labor MP Chris Hayes since 2010 and a safe Labor seat since its creation in 1984.
The electorate’s unemployment rate has been consistently higher than the national average, more than double at some points during the last year.
Housing is also a dominant issue in the electorate as overcrowding rises in the area.