Defeated Liberal candidate for Gilmore Andrew Constance says he has no regrets after failing to win the marginal seat on New South Wales’ south coast at the federal election.

Labor MP Fiona Phillips retained the seat by 373 votes and was officially sworn in last week, after a request from Mr Constance for a recount was denied by the Australian Electoral Commission.

The former NSW transport and infrastructure minister said he did not regret the decision to quit his state politics career for a tilt at federal parliament.

“That’s life,” Mr Constance said.

“I wish the community the best. It’s been an amazing 20 years for me.”

Seeing positives in swings

Gilmore experienced a 2.5 per cent swing to the Liberal Party and was the last seat to be called for Labor.

Mr Constance, who was the state member for Bega for 19 years, said he was proud of a “13 per cent swing on our primary” even if he considered it “a little bit frustrating”.

“You see members of parliament getting elected with 29 per cent primary,” he said.

“I’m 16, 17 per cent higher than that, and I can’t get in there.”

Andrew Constance fell 373 votes short of victory in one of the closest contests in the federal election.(ABC Illawarra: Timothy Fernandez)

Changing political landscape

Reflecting on the Coalition’s election loss, Mr Constance felt that the party had lost its way, but said it had been a wake-up call for both major parties.

Mr Constance also said the changing nature of the media and the rise of social media had made being a politician a much tougher job.

“When I started out in politics, you didn’t have Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“It’s a very different environment from when I was first elected.

“There is this need for politicians to take the best of advice, but also to stop, pause, and not feel like they have to respond to the media every five minutes.”

Acknowledging a ‘personal’ toll

Mr Constance was blunt when it came to the impact of 20 years in state politics.

“My personal life has suffered very badly,” he said.

“It put a lot of pressure on the home environment, and I’m very sorry for that.

“I feel like I’ve lived 10 years in the last three, to be honest, since Black Summer.”

Mr Constance fought to save his Malua Bay home during the Black Summer bushfires, and rose to national prominence for his regular public appearances during the crisis.

He became a vocal supporter of more funding for mental health issues, and also criticised former prime minister Scott Morrison after his awkward visit to one of the bushfire-affected communities.

Mr Constance criticised former prime minister Scott Morrison over his visit to a bushfire-affected community.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Looking to life after politics

With his election loss now official, Mr Constance said he was keen to continue playing a leadership role in the community, particularly in the wake of the bushfires.

But he said he would be taking a break before considering anything.

“The phone has gone really quiet, so that’s a good thing,” Mr Constance said.

“I’m just going to put my head down and take a little bit of time and go from there.

“In politics, people don’t look backwards.

“They only look forwards, but I do feel like I’ve left the community in a better shape than when I found it.”

Andrew Constance acknowledges political life took a toll on him personally.(ABC News)

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