Darling Range by-election campaigning got a little awkward on Wednesday as early voting opened for the seat, where the McGowan Government is still trying to shrug off the memory of previous incumbent Barry Urban.
The vast electorate encompasses the Shire of Mundaring, Kalamunda, the City of Armadale, right down to the Shire of Serpentine-Jarrahdale.
Driving from one end to the other could take up to an hour and a half — but even that distance wasn’t enough for the major parties to avoid an unplanned run-in while hitting the campaign trail.
The Liberal posse included candidate Alyssa Hayden and leader Mike Nahan, who began their day with a walkthrough and chat to locals at the Mundaring Village Shopping Centre.
But coincidentally, Environment Minister Stephen Dawson and Labor candidate Tania Lawrence happened to be at there at the same time, spruiking a Plastic Free July.
While most of the Liberals avoided the turf struggle, Dr Nahan headed straight for it, trading pleasantries with the Minister and meeting Labor’s candidate.
Tania Lawrence introduced herself as the “Member for Darling Range”. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
Either Dr Nahan didn’t hear or chose to ignore Ms Lawrence when she introduced herself as the “Member for Darling Range” as she welcomed him to the neighbourhood.
Ms Lawrence lives in the electorate, unlike many of the 11 candidates, including Ms Hayden, but awarded herself the win and title more than two weeks before the ballot closes.
The candidate also joked she would be sending Dr Nahan a reusable “Keep Cup” instead of his takeaway one, given the Government’s plastic-free push.
The awkward encounter was almost repeated later in the day on the other side of the electorate at the Byford early polling booth, but the Liberals scrambled when they saw Ms Lawrence roll into the car park.
Mike Nahan, Alyssa Hayden and Zak Kirkup were among the Liberals campaigning in Darling Range. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)
The electorate has been forced to the polls by the resignation of the disgraced former Labor, turned independent MP, Barry Urban.
Mr Urban resigned from the WA Parliament after he was found to have committed a “sustained and gross contempt of Parliament” for lying about his education and police service history.
Labor’s first pick as candidate, Colleen Yates, was then forced to quit after it emerged that she too had discrepancies in her education history.
It has become a contentious seat, previously held by the Liberals for decades before Labor’s crushing election victory last year.
But the big question is whether the Urban scandal, and the second credential drama that followed with Ms Yates, will actually have an impact on voter opinion.
Voter opinions divergent
Political analysts have said it could be anyone’s game. Speaking to a handful of locals, it is clear that the sentiment rings true.
Pickering Brook resident John Davies has always been a staunch Liberal voter.
The last 15 months of a Labor Government has not changed his mind.
“I think it’s a bloody disgrace, the last two candidates,” Mr Davies said.
“There’s no way in the world [I’d vote for Labor], not after that debacle.”
But others in Byford, who voted Labor at the election, seemed not to have wavered in their support.
“It’s not a problem,” said one voter.
“[Barry Urban] is just one man, isn’t he? He’s not the party.”
‘It’s the economy that matters’
Several Labor supporters said they had not heard about the Urban scandal, but it would not change their vote.
Both candidates have been adamant that it is simply the issues, not the politics, in the community which will drive votes.
Mundaring cafe owner Patrick Sullivan, who is a Liberal voter, agrees.
“Being in small business, it’s the economy that’s the priority, that means employment,” he said.
“Creating jobs, looking for opportunities for more development within Western Australia as a whole, not just this particular area.”
Cafe owners Delphine and Patrick Sullivan will continue to vote for the Liberals in the by-election. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)