LIBERAL candidate John Fitzgibbon may not have won Ballarat but he has potentially brought the seat back into play for his party at the next election.
A big swing of more than seven per cent to Mr Fitzgibbon on two party preferred votes leaves Ballarat’s margin under five per cent for the first time since the 2004 election.
Mr Fitzgibbon ran a campaign primarily on the Liberal party’s national message which saw him nearly match sitting member Catherine King on primary votes.
With most ballots counted Mr Fitzgibbon has won 38 per cent of the vote – up 4 per cent from what the Liberals snared in 2010.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the party had run a “fantastic” campaign and he was really proud of what they had achieved.
He was particularly happy that the local swing was higher than the state and national trends which won the Coalition government.
“Obviously the goal is to win and we were unable to do that which is disappointing but we were able to run very close on primary votes,” he said.
“I’m really buoyed by that result. It’s taken Greens preferences to get a win for the sitting member.”
With the seat within grasp at the next election, many Liberal supporters have already asked Mr Fitzgibbon if he will try and run in three years’ time.
Mr Fitzgibbon said he had received phone calls of support urging him to try again but it was too early to make that decision.
“At this stage I’ll take some time out and have a discussion with my family, obviously a campaign takes a big toll on families,” he said.
“I’m not ruling anything in or out. It’s just premature at this stage, the day after an election, to make those sort of decisions.”
For now, Mr Fitzgibbon said he would take some time off to consider what to do next. He went on leave earlier this year as general manager of radio stations 3BA and Power FM to run for parliament.
He wanted to thank the local party members and particularly his family for their support.
“I wouldn’t have have been able to do it without them,” he said.