Editorial | Maitland's long and bitter election campaign is finally drawing to a close

By now, Maitland ratepayers are probably breathing a sigh of relief as they prepare to go to the polls tomorrow to mark the end of a long and at times spiteful election campaign.

Fairfax Media has covered many Maitland local government elections over the years but cannot recall one quite as bitter and personal as this one.

Mayoral candidates have been at each other’s throats, candidates’ families and spouses have come under attack and as expected, The Mercury has copped no end of criticism and petty threats.

Threatening letters have been slipped under the doors of our office and the workplace of mayoral candidate Brian Burke.

Never before has a Maitland election received so much social media attention with candidates and their sympathisers flooding Facebook and Twitter with election propaganda.

This in turn attracted the online trolls, keen to denigrate and sully the reputations of those involved.

The race for mayor took a turn on August 20 when Labor and the Liberals struck a deal on preferences.

Labor will preference the Greens second then Liberals third, while the Liberals will place Brian Burke’s independent team at number two and then Labor.

Mayoral candidates Loretta Baker (Labor) and Bob Geoghegan (Liberal) conceded the deal was uncommon, but both said they had worked well together in the past.

The deal was purported as a way of filtering votes away from independent candidate Philip Penfold, seen by many as a threat in the mayoral race.

In another unexpected turn, incumbent mayor Peter Blackmore went public in a video endorsing Labor’s Loretta Baker for mayor.

Cr Blackmore said he was approached to do the video and said if any other candidates who had served as his deputy had approached him, he would have done the same for them.

All that said, this bitter election climate begs the question how will this mix of candidates work for our city if they retain their seats? Will they put personalities and politics aside and work as a cohesive team as they did under the 18-year Blackmore regime? Will they continue to drive this city and listen to the ratepayers? Will they continue with the “can do city” mantra or will it just become a forum for petty pointscoring?