NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian expects independent Joe McGirr to take Wagga Wagga's Liberal Party seat for the first time in nearly 60 years
The count of Saturday's partial elections continues, with a projected swing of about 29 percent against the government, which means a historical loss.
"It's likely that we have the highest primary vote, but of course not enough to keep us in the seat, it's more likely that independent Joe McGirr will win the seat," he said.
Addressing supporters in his Wagga backyard on Saturday, Dr. McGirr said he felt "quietly optimistic," but did not expect a result Saturday night.
"I think we have been able to make the seat count, we have been able to stand up and make our voices heard," he told the small but jubilant group.
The doctor and the academician ruled out joining the coalition once in the government.
"I have been independent, I am independent, I intend to continue as an independent," he said.
Regardless of the outcome, Labor candidate Dan Hayes declared that the community had "returned to marginal Wagga" after arriving at the reception on election night to enthusiastic applause.
"They have neglected us for too long, for too long and we are sending them a message: we will not be careless anymore."
A campaign with problems, accompanied by a local corruption scandal and a disorderly federal coup, has eroded its safety margin of 12.9 percent, according to government sources.
The NSW Liberal State Director, Chris Stone, said on Saturday to the party function "on current projections, it will be very difficult for us to get there."
Liberal candidate Julia Ham told the crowd that she would consider running in March if the loss occurred.
"It may be over, but it's something that would certainly represent again," he said.
Both Mr. Hayes and Dr. McGirr agreed earlier that there was an appetite for change in the community, although none knew how it would manifest.
Hayes said local and national scandals had stoked the community's anger.
"People have been queuing up early and for me, that indicates they are ready to vote, they are ready to make a change, where the change will continue to be difficult," Hayes said.
Dr. McGirr said he could feel the change at the polling stations, but he was not sure where traditional liberal voters would redirect their vote.
The victory granted by the Premier Gladys Berejiklian would be difficult.
"It's a struggle," he said during a brief presentation in the voting booth of the Sturt Public School with Ms. Ham.
Ms. Berejiklian did not attend the liberal election function on Saturday night.
The prime minister and several high-ranking colleagues acknowledged that the killing of Malcolm Turnbull dissuaded some voters from Wagga, but federal Sen. Jim Molan dismissed those concerns.
"I have not seen any indication that this is even a factor," he told AAP as he handed out voting cards.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack will not rule on whether the federal coalition would be guilty of a loss.
"We do not intend to lose the seat, we intend to win the seat and that question is hypothetical," he said.
NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro was a notable absence in Wagga, but McCormack said he "probably has things to do in his own electorate."