Vale Kevin Richards

Labor’s candidate for Kalgoorlie, Kevin Richards, has died of a heart attack at the age of 65. The Poll Bludger’s election guide entry noted that one reason the seat was less secure for the Liberals than the 4.4 per cent margin made it appear was the high esteem in which Richards was held in his role as Mayor of Roebourne. Labor now has four days to find a new candidate to take the field against incumbent Barry Haase and independent challenger Graeme Campbell, who held the seat for Labor from 1980 to 1996 and as an independent until his defeat by Haase in 1998. On Friday, Roger Martin of The Australian reported that "if you believe those in the Liberal headquarters in Perth and Canberra, internal polling early this year showed it is a seat the party is in grave danger of losing". The Poll Bludger also heard talk of polling "without any Aboriginal respondents" showing the two major parties at line-ball on two-party preferred. This should not be quite so surprising considering that Kalgoorlie has traditionally been a Labor seat, with results since 1996 being complicated firstly by Campbell and then by strong performances from One Nation. Campbell’s re-emergence did appear to complicate matters because his preferences are likely to favour the Liberals, but his campaign has been struggling for oxygen in an electorate where a young population and high emigration rate have eroded much of his old support base. A lot could depend on Labor’s capacity to rebound here after this latest sad and untimely setback.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.