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Libs safeguard ‘must-win’ city seat

Expecting Nicole Werner
Victorian Liberal MP Nicole Werner has clinched victory in a crucial by-election in Melbourne’s northeast. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Victorian Liberal MP Nicole Werner has clinched victory in a crucial by-election in Melbourne’s northeast.

The Australian called the vote for the Victorian Liberal Party about 8pm after a closely-watched ballot.

The Victorian Liberal Party declared the vote themselves about the same time, according to the Age.

Ms Werner enjoyed an early surge with 74 per cent of the two-party preferred vote with 34 per cent counted.

That early lead is welcome news for the Liberal leadership who eyed the 4.2 per cent margin held in 2022.

Expecting Nicole Werner
Liberal candidate Nicole Werner the Liberal Party at a voting booth in Doncaster East. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

The Age reported that the party's scrutineers had reported primary votes above 50 per cent early in the count.

The party was tipped to comfortably win the outer-city seat, with Victorian Labor not fielding a candidate.

Ms Werner, a charity manager, promised to “restore integrity” to Victoria’s finances ahead of the vote.

“I’ve spent my entire working life serving our community,” Ms Werner said.

“If elected, I’ll fight for the issues you care about.”

The by-election was triggered in July when Liberal MP Ryan Smith resigned to take up a corporate job.

Mr Smith had represented Warrandyte since 2006, but resigned only six months after the 2022 election.

Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto said on Saturday the Party was not taking anything “for granted”.

Outside Ringwood North Primary School, Mr Pesutto said: “Nicole has worked so hard.

“She’s knocked on doors, she’s phone canvassed, she’s held listening posts.

“She’s connected with the community she grew up in.”

The Liberals held the seat with a 4.2 per cent margin in 2022, with any dip expected to reflect on Mr Pesutto.

Mr Pesutto booted MP Moira Deeming from the party room after she attended an anti-transgender rally.

Ms Werner, the daughter of Chinese-Malaysian migrants, attended a local language school in Doncaster East.

In November, she unsuccessfully campaigned for the Box Hill seat at that year’s Victoria state election.

Ms Werner lost the seat, a key target for the Liberals in their push for government, to Labor’s Paul Hamer.

John Pesutto
Victorian Opposition Leader John Pesutto said on Saturday the Party was not taking anything “for granted”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

In the absence of Labor, Ms Werner faced off against 11 minor party or independent candidates.

Greens candidate Tomas Lightbody was tipped to be Ms Werner’s closest competitor.

He was optimistic when speaking to SkyNews before polls closed that the Greens could nab victory.

“Its hard to predict what we’re going to achieve tonight, but what I can say is we’ve been out there,” he said.

Green candidate Tomas Lightbody with Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam. Picture: Facebook
Green candidate Tomas Lightbody with Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam. Picture: Facebook

“We’ve been talking to people, we’ve been talking to people about climate change … it’s really on their minds.”

Mr Lightbody was supported by Victorian Greens leader Samantha Ratnam at the East Doncaster booth.

“Elect a another powerful progressive voice for climate action and housing affordability: vote Greens,” she said.

Ms Werner’s other competitors included Sustainable Australia Party and the Freedom Party of Victoria.