Labor bigwigs were last night in a panic over the Rockingham by-election, with insiders saying that as polls closed at 6pm they were predicting a massive drop in the party’s primary vote. The sources said Labor candidate Magenta Marshall was still expected to win, but substantially less than the iron-tight grip her predecessor and former premier Mark McGowan had. Cost-of-living, the cultural heritage act and the Voice as well as a new Premier still trying to find his feet were all contributing to Labor’s woes. It was excepted as of 7pm that the Independent candidate Hayley Edwards could push the battle into preferences and stop Ms Marshall from winning on her primary vote alone. Labor insiders were last night fearing the worst, saying its primary vote could fall by more than 30 per cent in today’s Rockingham by-election. With Mr McGowan recording an unbelievable 82.75 per cent primary vote at the 2021 state Election, Labor always knew that figure was never going to be replicated at this by-election. But there are now fears that Labor candidate Magenta Marshall’s primary vote might actually fall as low as 45 per cent – maybe even lower. Mr McGowan, when he won Rockingham in 1996, won the seat with a primary vote of 48 per cent. But given that in this election, there are nine candidates and a very strong Independent in Rockingham deputy mayor Hayley Edwards, there are fears that a primary vote in the low 40s will see Labor lose WA’s safest seat. Ms Edwards said last night voting at booths had been slow, which gave her hope that the election might turn her way. “It’s been surprisingly quiet,” Ms Edwards said. “The polling stations that are normally very busy, had half the people. “There were way more volunteers than voters. “Hopefully this is good for me.” “This is Labor land, and if a lot of Labor people haven’t bothered to vote that might be in my favour.” Prior to last night Labor held Rockingham by a whopping 37.7 margin making it one of the safest seats in Australia. Liberal candidate Peter Hudson said last night he believed there would be a “massive swing” in Rockingham. “I’ve worked these areas on a lot of campaigns, this is the first time there’s been a real mood for change,” he said. “People are rejecting Labor’s backroom pick. “Even the Premier said it was going to be very tight, and that’s consistent with what I’m feeling as well. “I think it’s going to be close, there’s a massive swing on. “The amount of rusted -on Labor voters who’ve come up to me and said ‘we’re going to give you a try for the first time in our life’ is astounding.” Mr Hudson’s grandfather, retired ABC political journalist Barry Wiseman, joined him to hand out how-to-vote cards. “In Rockingham, the best supporters are family - he’s been a great help to me,” Mr Hudson said. Mr Hudson said his grandfather had instilled his passion for community issues and ability to articulate an argument in his extended family. “He’s where I get my speaking ability and my confidence, that all comes from him.” This might have been Magenta Marshall’s shot at being the new Labor member for Rockingham – but there was little doubt Mark McGowan was still King of the Castle. Mr McGowan, who was the Labor member for Rockingham for nearly 30 years, has been continually rolled out by Labor this by-election to help Ms Marshall. On Saturday, Mr McGowan also made sure he visited booths, taking a selfie with Ms Marshall at Safety Bay Primary School. In a post on Facebook, Mr McGowan wrote: “I’ve lived in Rockingham for most of my life and it’s been an absolute privilege to represent the community for over 26 years. “Magenta is a genuine local and will be a strong voice in Roger Cook’s Labor Government. “Magenta is a champion for her local sporting and community groups and will be a tremendous advocate for the people of Rockingham.” Ms Edwards said Mr McGowan’s presence at booths was perhaps an indication Labor thought it was in trouble. “I think they (Labor) might be concerned,” Ms Edwards said on Saturday afternoon. “He (Mark McGowan) seems to have come incognito, with glasses, a hat on and stuff. “When I have been there, he (McGowan) has been standing in a corner quietly with other Labor supporters handing out how to vote cards.” Ms Edwards, the deputy Mayor of Rockingham whose term expires in October, was denied a chance to put her name up for Labor because her membership was 21 days overdue. In a sign of how worried Labor is about this by-election it rushed to change its how-to-vote card for the by-election late this week, relegating Ms Edwards to the bottom of its list of preferences for Labor voters to follow. Ms Marshall, who voted at Charthouse Primary School just after 9am, admitted the result could go down to preferences – even conceding Labor could lose the seat. “I’m expecting a close result. There’s a lot of support for Labor still, but I don’t expect to have the same level of support that Mark McGowan had after being our champion for nearly 30 years’” Ms Marshall said. She said she expected the result to go preferences. “I expect it will be a close election and that it will probably go down to preferences,” she said Asked if there was any chance she could lose the seat, Ms Marshall said: “it could be. But I hope not” She expected liberal candidate Peter Hudson to be her main challenger “It’s a contest between Labor and Liberal I think,” she said. Liberal leader Libby Mettam said a poor result in Rockingham for Labor would be an indictment on the leadership of Mr McGowan’s replacement as Premier, former deputy Roger Cook.’ “This election is ultimately a barometer of Roger Cook’s leadership and WA Labor’s performance in their safest seat in the state,” she said. But Mr Cook played down suggestions a poor result in Rockingham could be interpreted as the start of the rot for Labor, in the post-McGowan era. “We are in a period of transition. Mark McGowan was a very popular Premier and I’ve been in the job now for just 7 weeks,” Mr Cook said. “I think we need to be careful about what we read into any results tonight.” Sources claimed Labor had poured more than $300,000 on the Rockingham campaign, realising it was in serious trouble of losing the seat.