Wendy Tuckerman says she's delighted and humbled to be elected as the State member for Goulburn, succeeding Pru Goward in the seat.
Mrs Tuckerman said Labor candidate Dr Ursula Stephens contacted her on Sunday afternoon to concede defeat.
"Even though it's close, she said she can't win from here based on the trends," she said.
"...I'm fairly stunned and it's quite surreal that it's gone that way...I'm stunned that I'm ahead by a greater margin than what I had imagined."
The former Australian Federal Police detective said she knew the poll would be close. While those around her were calling the seat for the Libs on Saturday night, she was being cautious and wanted to respect the count.
At 6pm Mrs Tuckerman was sitting on 13,197 votes or 53.23pc on a two-party preferred basis, according to the NSW electoral Commission. Dr Stephens had polled 11,596 or 46.77pc.
The Liberal candidate pulled in 16,876 or 39.52pc of primary votes to Dr Stephens' 12,859 (30.11pc).
Counting is still underway in the seat, which has 57,564 eligible voters.
But Dr Stephens told The Post that based on her information, "there were less than 1000 votes in it."
"I don't feel optimistic I can claw it back based on the trends," she said.
In a battle against Dr Stephens' high profile in Goulburn city, the seat's main population centre, Mrs Tuckerman embarked on 75 days of "hard work."
"My goal was to meet as many people as I could and I think I successfully did that. Meeting people and talking to them plays a big part," she said.
Though Ms Goward assisted with introductions to community groups, Mrs Tuckerman said she did a great deal of campaigning off her own bat.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian also visited Goulburn city three times during the campaign, making significant funding announcements.
"I was (also) overwhelmed by the support people gave me and extremely humbled by those willing to help," she said.
"To see how emotional they were on Saturday night was very humbling. You can't do this sort of thing by yourself."
While awaiting for the result to be officially declared, Mrs Tuckerman said she would "hit the ground running," with rail transport a big ticket item on her agenda.
"My job is to get on with delivering things and meeting the expectations of the whole electorate," she said.
At the same time, her party would be examining why voters had drifted to minor parties. She believed the federal leadership spill had also impacted on the State result.
Meantime, Dr Stephens said she was always realistic about her chances in the seat.
"We never underestimated the enormity of the task," she said.
"...I think people are under a lot of cost of living pressures today and are not necessarily engaged in politics the way they were a decade ago. We had to think differently about the campaign and have touchstone issues that people wouldn't normally see."
Ms Goward's resignation in December also prompted a strategy re-think.
Dr Stephens was pleased that she won every Goulburn city booth on Saturday. But Southern Highlands villages held the conservative vote.
Counting is still underway on some major booths, including the Wesley Centre in Goulburn and Goulburn High School. These were not completed on Saturday. Election manager Lars Gudikson said counters "lost sight of what they were doing."
"It could be a lack of training," he said.
Dr Stephens expected a deep inquiry into this and "anomalies" at several booths that prevented a faster flow of information.
Following a clean-up of her campaign office and an election debrief, she plans to take a holiday.
But she's pleased the seat is now marginal, with a 2.9pc swing against the Libs on a two-party preferred basis.
"This will be a genuine contest next time," Dr Stephens said.
While not ruling out another tilt, she said she felt an obligation to mentor future leaders.
"We could have a whole different set of circumstances next time, such as a redistribution that takes Goulburn (city) further into the Highlands," she said.
"But you never say never."
Minor parties perform
As of 5pm, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Andrew Wood was sitting on 4009 primary votes or 9.39pc.
One Nation's Richard Orchard had drawn 3967 first preference votes (9.29pc) and The Greens' Dr Saan Ecker - 1001 votes (7.89pc).
Mr Wood said there was no doubt there was a swing away from The Nationals to his party because it represented what the Country Party "used to be."
He said only about half the voters at booths on Saturday took his pamphlets, indicating they had made up their mind.
While some had initially thought his was a single issue party, once he explained policy stances on a wide range of issues, voters were persuaded.
"Clearly, they were were looking for an alternative and liked what we were offering," Mr Wood told The Post.
Meantime, Mr Orchard was buoyed by the result. He had snared 3967 or 9.29pc of the primary vote by Sunday afternoon.
He said together the minor parties had grabbed almost 20pc of primary votes from Liberal and Labor.
"We took some votes from Labor and quite a lot from Liberal," he said.
"It looks like Liberal will be elected with about 40pc of voters supporting the candidate but that means 60pc don't," he said.
"They may hail it as a great victory but 60pc don't want them."
Mr Orchard said it was "heartwarming" to see support coming from three main groups. These were mature women over 45 years old, hard working "non-unionised tradesmen and small businessmen" and "young firebrands in their 20s" who didn't want to their thoughts and speech controlled by government.
"The message we're getting is that we're the voice of commonsense and that there's more than one view on the way the world works," he said.
"...The major parties have entrenched views but it's not what the majority think...In the seat of Goulburn, 20pc of voters reject what they have to say."
Mr Orchard believed with a longer presence in NSW and more funding, One Nation could poll even better.
He was surprised that the Labor vote had "tanked," given Dr Stephens was well known in Goulburn itself and Mrs Tuckerman had a lower profile.
With the Liberals suffering a 3.2pc swing against them, Mr Orchard said Mrs Tuckerman was in One Nation's sight as a target to "keep honest."