LABOUR’S Gemma Taylor was last night declared the winner of the Houghton ward by-election.
The vote, which was triggered by the death in December of councillor Kath Rolph, drew a turnout of 33.3 per cent.
The victorious Labour candidate won by 294 votes ahead of Independent John Ellis.
UK Independence Party candidate Edward Coleman-Hughes claimed third place with 302 votes, relegating the Conservatives to fourth with George Brown receiving 111 votes.
It was a poor night for the Liberal Democrat’s Sue Sterling, who could only manage 55 votes.
Coun Taylor was visibly nervous throughout the count and was left “speechless” when she was declared the winner.
“I fought a hard campaign,” she said. “I was selected in January and it’s been all the way to today, from 7am until 8.30pm.
“I want to be the local voice for residents. There are a lot of issues to bring forward.”
The newly-elected councillor also paid tribute to her predecessor. “Kath was a great friend and she’s left some massive shoes to fill,” she said.
Council leader Paul Watson was delighted with Labour’s success.
“It’s excellent and reflects the quality of our candidate,” he said. “It was real heartstrings stuff too and the result is an accolade to what Kath did in this ward.”
Runner-up Mr Ellis said: “I hoped to win, but I will carry on working for Houghton and doing my best.”
Mr Brown congratulated the candidates on a fairly fought campaign, while Ms Sterling said: “It’s not the best night, but I think we have been under-represented here for some time and we have got a lot to offer people here.”
UKIP candidate Mr Coleman-Hughes did not attend the count.