PHIL Donato has expressed relief after finally being declared the new member of parliament for the electorate of Orange after a gruelling nine-day vote count following the by-election on November 12.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate went into the polling booths as an outsider, but was able to upset Nationals candidate Scott Barrett by the bare margin of just 50 votes – the first time the Nationals have been beaten forthe seat since 1947.
“It is a great relief,” Donato said.
“I am deeply humbled and thankful to all the people who voted for me and supported me.
“The emotional rollercoaster we have been on the last week or so has been filled with ups and downs so to finally get this result is fantastic.”
Donato said it has been a whirlwind ride since making the decision to run as a candidate at the by-election.
“I remember waking up in July and I was listening to the Big Sports Breakfast on 2KY when they announced the ban on greyhound racing.
“I thought it sounded a bit rough, not really knowing much about the greyhound industry.
“Then the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party decided they were going to run a candidate in the Orange by-election in August.
“I was speaking to a few people about it at the local gun shop and they decided to nominate me to have a crack.
“I have always been a hunter and a shooter…it’s been a hobby I have enjoyed since I was a young boy so when the opportunity presented itself to run as a candidate for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party it just sat well with me and I just really wanted to be able to do the best thing I could for the community.”
Donato said Premier Mike Baird’s decision to ban greyhound racing was the catalyst behind his decision to run in the by-election.
“I have lived and worked in the community and I have battled along with a lot of other people just to make ends meat. I know what it’s like, life can be tough for most people and you have got to work really hard to get what you want.
“I feel a deep sense of sympathy for people within the greyhound industry in regards to how they were they were stereotyped and had their livelihoods and industry shut down.
“It struck a chord with me. With matters of dealing with facts and evidence and needing to retain the utmost fairness – it’s all a part of my work and it was clear to me that what was happening to the greyhound industry and its people was unfair.”
Despite the win being rewarding, Donato reiterated it was a lot of hard work to achieve the victory.
“It was a massive upset and a massive win for the battlers and the underdogs.
“We really exceeded our expectations. We always knew we would put up a good fight because I am well known in the area through my work and other commitments, but if someone had of said to me two months ago that I would win the Orange by-election I would have told them they’re mad.
“We worked hard on the ground, talking to people. We have worked really hard on a grass roots, boot lace campaign. It’s involved lots of door knocking, visiting pubs, clubs and speaking to a lot of people around the electorate.
“People are sick of elitist politicians who don’t really have a lot of life experience outside of politics, telling them what to do and making life-changing decisions which effect them.
“I made sure I listened to everyone’s concerns and the people have responded accordingly. I am deeply humbled and appreciative and I promise to work my backside off over the next two and a half years to ensure I can represent the electorate again in 2019.”