SUPER SATURDAY: Sharkie nervous but hopeful in Mayo
VOTERS in the former-blue ribbon seat of Mayo will have the chance to return the electorate to the Liberal fold at Saturday's by-election.
But candidate Georgina Downer would need to discredit consecutive polls to take the seat from Centre Alliance MP-turned-candidate Rebekha Sharkie. Voting booths in the seat centred on the Adelaide Hills are now open, in one of the five Super Saturday by-elections mostly forced by the dual citizenship fiasco.
The by-election was triggered after Ms Sharkie - who won Mayo for the Nick Xenophon Team in 2016 - became caught up in the dual citizenship saga and was forced to resign.
She was the first non-Liberal to hold the seat since its 1984 creation and is hoping to repeat the result.
Her opponent, Ms Downer, is the daughter of Howard government foreign minister Alexander, who held the seat for the Liberal Party for 24 years. A recent poll in The Advertiser put her ahead 59-41 on a two-party basis while a ReachTEL poll of more than 700 voters returned a similar result on Wednesday night.
Despite the stark result, neither candidate has been willing to give weight to the poll.
"My intention is to be successful tomorrow and, of course, run next year for re- election as the member for Mayo," Ms Downer said.
"I expected this would be a difficult campaign but it's been a really fantastic time out here in Mayo and I've had a great reception in the community." Ms Sharkie, the clear favourite, denied she was in a "unlosable position". "I am so nervous here today," she told reporters on Friday.
"The poll that counts is the poll (on Saturday)." Counting will start after polling closes at 6pm local time.
Rebekah Sharkie says she's both nervous and hopeful of being returned to federal parliament as the member for Mayo with voting underway in Saturday's by- election.
The Central Alliance MP-turned-candidate joined her parents at Mt Torrens, in the Adelaide HIlls, casting the first ballot at now-closed Lutheran school in the town.
She says while it's been a long campaign, she and her team have done all they could and she wouldn't change a thing.
"This has been a wonderful way to bring my community together," she said. "My team of volunteers, we've given this everything we possibly can. "You can only be hopeful. You can only be optimistic but ultimately we'll know the result at the end of today." Ms Sharkie first won Mayo from the Liberals in 2016 but was forced to resign when caught up in the dual citizenship saga.
Opinion polls have her well in front of Liberal candidate Georgina Downer despite Ms Downer enjoying strong support in recent weeks from a string of high- profile party figures, including two visits from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and one from former PM John Howard.
She is also the daughter of former foreign minister Alexander who held Mayo for 24 years from 1984, though the family connection may have played against her in the end.
Ms Downer also battled criticism that she was something of a blow-in after spending most of the past 20 years living interstate or overseas. Ms Sharkie played up her own local credentials as someone deeply involved in the area for many years.
"I love my community. That is why I put my hand up two years ago. That is why I put a second mortgage on our house two year ago," she said.
"People said that was crazy but I just felt I had to do it." Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged Mayo residents to vote for Ms Downer, who he said had run a campaign in tough circumstances.
"The message in Mayo is very clear that Rebekha Sharkie - she is not a Labor candidate but most of the time she votes for the Labor Party," he said while campaigning in Tasmania.
Counting will start in Mayo after polling closes at 6pm local time. - AAP