It was the DUP’s day in Upper Bann, with Carla Lockhart storming home on the long-delayed first count.
She polled 7,993 first preferences against a 6,527 quota – and the only one of 17 candidates to make it on the first count.
Running mate Sydney Anderson was runner-up on 6,195, followed home by Sinn Fein duo Cat Seeley (6,164) and John O’Dowd (5,209).
Mr Anderson was elected from Mrs Lockhart’s transfers on the second count.
Well behind – and fifth in line – was sitting MLA Dolores Kelly on 4,335, but she wasn’t giving up home, even though she was more than 800 adrift of O’Dowd. “I usually thrive on transfers,” she said. “There’s a lot of life in this election yet.”
But the story of the day was Lockhart, nominated ahead of her former boss Stephen Moutray, the deposed MLA who employed her a number of years ago as a researcher, only for her to reach the heights of Mayor of Craigavon and now has supplanted the man who originally co-opted her to the Civic Centre.
She said, “I simply cannot believe this success. I owe it to the people of Upper Bann who came out in such numbers to support me. To beat the quota by 1,400 votes is unbelievable – so many people helped me and I give thanks to God.”
Lockhart was miles ahead of the field, and her purple dressed shone out among her supporters as they roared their appreciation.
Sinn Fein will surely follow them home, and the Ulster Unionists probably garnered enough vote to bring in Jo-Anne Dobson (5,155) and Doug Beattie (2,909), with their third candidate Kyle Savage on 1,760. There are suggestions that Kelly could leap-frog over the UUP’s unexpectedly low tally.
The rest of the first count was – Roy Ferguson (TUV) 1,177; Harry Hamilton (All) 1424; Emma Hutchinson (Labour) 250; David Jones (UKIP) 1072; Martin Kelly (CISTA) 672; Simon Lee (Green) 495; Sophie Long (PUP) 704; Stephen McCarroll (Ind) 33; Ian Nickels (Con) 79.