One Labor source said defeating an incumbent MP was a tough challenge even though a boundary redistribution last year made Corangamite notionally Labor.
“You’re dealing with a formidable, cashed-up opponent,” the source said. “She had three years to pour resources into the seat. Removing an incumbent is hard, that’s why it’s a good result.”
Labor insiders pointed to the party’s support in some Corangamite booths, including the urban development area of Armstrong Creek and Torquay where the opposition secured substantial swings to Ms Coker.
While most booths across the electorate swung to Labor, the government achieved some gains in places like Leopold on Geelong’s outskirts and the nearby town of Clifton Springs.
Ms Henderson, who seized Corangamite from Labor in 2016, said she was proud of her campaign.
On Saturday night she told supporters that she fought hard up until 6pm when polls closed.
“At the Grovedale booth tonight I was working there until the end. About 5.20 the Labor Party started to pack up. And all of us stood there as Liberals, we didn’t pack up a thing,” she said. “We didn’t move until the doors closed. I made sure that we were there for every single last vote.”
Over in the inner eastern metropolitan Chisholm electorate, some Liberal Party insiders expected Gladys Liu to retain the seat for the government against Labor’s Jennifer Yang.
The seat was without an incumbent after former MP Julia Banks defected from the Liberal Party to run as an independent in coastal Flinders.
Chisholm takes in ethnic enclaves such as Box Hill where three booths each swung to Labor. But at booths in other suburbs such as Glen Waverley Heights and Mount Waverley there was a swing to the Liberals.
A senior Liberal Party figure said postal and early votes would favour Ms Liu.
“I would be surprised if we don’t win Chisholm,” he said.
Ms Liu declined to comment.
Benjamin is a state political reporter