INCUMBENT mayor Mike Neville has hit out at his political enemies who he claims ran a smear campaign that could cost him the leadership of the city.
While he remains a chance to retain the mayoral chains on preferences, Mr Neville looks likely to garner less than half the primary votes than he did in the 2008 poll.
On primary votes, he was second in the mayoral vote, trailing former mayor John Dal Broi by about 500 votes less than four per cent.
"At the end of the day, we ran a reasonable campaign despite an orchestrated campaign against me," Mr Neville said.
"There was a lot of talk about the pending court matter and the cost of a possible by-election and that sort of negativity can strike a chord with people.
"At the end of the day, I've had four years at the helm of council and it's been an absolute privilege to serve the community.
"It's not about ego for me and I don't care what scare campaign people want to run, they have to live with it."
Mr Neville is guaranteed a spot on the council table, likely to be the second or third candidate elected as a councillor.
He refused to concede the mayoral chains to Mr Dal Broi, saying if preferences flowed according to how-to-vote cards he was still a serious contender.
The result of preferences is not expected to be known until at least mid-week.
"It does look better for us if preferences go as candidates nominated," Mr Neville said.
"I will obviously accept the umpire's decision and I'm really encouraged and very grateful that so many in the community supported me despite attempts to undermine me."
He said the negativity towards him and others during the past council term had impacted on the quality of candidates standing.
"One of the saddest things was the lack of choice at this election," Mr Neville said.
"A number of well-qualified people may well have stood but for the perception of negativity from some in the community."
For more election news, see The Area News's election portal.