Published: 00:00, 25 July 2014
| Updated: 00:45, 25 July 2014
Just six votes. That’s all that separated the two top candidates in the Staplehurst by-election.
But the extra six votes went to the Liberal Democrat candidate Paulina Watson, who was duly elected over Tory rival Louise Brice.
The result declared at 11.30pm in Staplehurst Village Centre after a recount is a further blow for the Conservative minority administration on Maidstone council.
Cllr Watson replaces the Conservative Richard Lusty who resigned shortly after the May elections.
Cllr Watson now becomes the only Dutch national to take a seat in the council chamber.
The 61-year-old came to England from Holland in 1973 to learn English prior to joining the crew of the Royal Dutch Airlines.
She stayed and for 12 years ran her own clothes business in Tunbridge Wells, switching careers at the age of 40 and going into social services. She became a manager in social care for KCC but was made redundant in 2012, when KCC shut Bowles Lodge in Hawkhurst.
She said: “Politics is new to me, but I was persuaded to stand for the Lib Dems because I liked their approach to the housing plans - that new housing should only be allowed after the necessary infrastructure is in place.”
She said it was opposition to the Tories’ extensive housing expansion planned for Staplehurst that was the issue most raised on the doorstep.
The UKIP candidate Jamie Kalmar came third in the poll, re-enforcing his party’s position as a serious new force in local politics. Labour candidate John Randall was fourth and the Green’s David George trailed the poll.
The turnout at 35% was considered high for a by-election.
Paulina Watson (Lib Dem) 609 ELECTED
Louise Brice (Con) 603
Jamie Kalmar (UKIP) 311
John Randall (Lab) 117
David George (Green) 41
The Lib Dem victory means the Tories now hold 24 of the 55-seats on the council. The Lib Dems have 20, Independents 5, UKIP 4 and Labour 2.
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