Three days after Canberra's pubs and restaurants were forced to shut as the coronavirus pandemic threatened to overwhelm Australia in late March, Liberals leader Alistair Coe was asked to comment on the possibility the ACT's October 17 election could be delayed.
He responded bluntly.
"I, nor any of the families, businesses or unemployed people I've spoken to in recent weeks are thinking about the ACT election," he said.
"Next week seems a long way off, let alone October."
The election date wasn't shifted as the pandemic, at the least in the ACT, was slowly brought under control.
But the health emergency, and the economic crisis it created, did re-write the narrative of the political year, one which had been altered from the start by the ACT's worst bushfire season since 2003.
What were shaping as election-defining issues, the ACT's mounting debt burden, rates, housing affordability and the "It's time" factor for a long-serving Labor government, were pushed to the side by the threats of COVID-19 outbreaks and mass job losses.
But as October 17 neared, those old local issues again rose to prominence.
The ACT election campaign has been fought amid a pandemic.
But has it been defined by it?
Recipe for success or magic pudding?
After struggling for air time throughout the year, Coe used the platform of the first day of the campaign to declare the October 17 ballot a referendum on what he described as Canberra's "out of control" cost of living.
Labor leader Andrew Barr, in contrast, said the election would be fought over jobs, health and education.
The battlelines had been set.
But they were soon shifted, as the topic which would become the election's defining theme quickly emerged.
As the Liberals set about announcing one expensive cost of living measure after another, from a $100 saving on car registration to a freeze on commercial rates, Coe was confronted with the same question over and over.
How would the Liberals pay for their promises, without cutting public sector jobs or services, or accumulating more debt?
After stumbling through non-answers at the start of the campaign, Coe eventually settled on an explanation. Or rather, a theory.
His argument was that if Canberra was more affordable then fewer families would be forced to move across the border to NSW, taking their tax dollars with them.
Retaining families, and luring back "Canberra refugees" from NSW, would grow the ACT's population, which, in turn, would grow the "revenue pie" big enough to pay for the Liberals' $1.1 billion worth of promises.
Sheepish at first, Coe fully embraced the economic argument and the narrative he created around it as the campaign progressed. His trip to Wanniassa's Cakery Bakery to bake apple pie alongside deputy leader Nicole Lawder was proof of that.
But despite mounting pressure and scepticism, Coe never produced any modelling or hard evidence to support his theory.
The vacuum was filled by Labor, which saw an opportunity to expose not only the credibility of the Liberals' economic plan, but the credibility and inexperience of its leader.
In what were his most animated moments of the campaign, Barr described Coe's grow the pie theory as "magic pudding economics". He sought to draw attention to the inherent contradiction of the Liberals' central promise - how can a government improve services while draining the source of revenue that funds those services?
"As further questions are asked of him each day in this campaign more of this crazy theory starts to unravel," he said.
Inexperienced, steady ... and stale?
Labor's constant focus on the Liberals' economic plan had a third function.
Barr has used each attack on Coe's policy as an opportunity to talk up the long-serving Labor government's experience and credibility, seen internally as it biggest strengths in the wake of its response to the summer fire crisis and, most significantly, the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ACT never closed its border during the pandemic, meaning Barr couldn't run a hyper parochial "keep Canberrans safe" campaign similar to mounted by Labor leaders in the NT and Queensland.
But with the ACT recording just 113 infections, and avoiding the same mass job losses seen in other jurisdictions, Labor has been able to use the crisis to its advantage.
The pandemic response has been at the heart of its deliberately safe, even boring, campaign, one which has aimed to amplify the message that it was the type of trusted, known quantity needed in government at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.
It's major election offerings have either been extensions of existing programs, such as the promised five new nurse-led walk-in centres, or fresh ones in traditional areas of strength, such as renewable energy.
Labor has essentially promised Canberrans more of the same.
What Labor has framed as a strength - its longevity and record in government - the Liberals have attempted to cast as a negative. At the Liberals' campaign launch at the National Arboretum, Coe joked that unlike ACT Labor, the attraction was getting better with age.
Descriptions of Labor as tired, stale and complacent after 19 years in power have been at the centre of the Liberals' campaign, which has aimed to push their party's "fresh vision" for Canberra.
Gaffes and controversy, but few major flashpoints
The most significant implication of the pandemic on the ACT election might prove not how it shaped the themes of the campaign, but the structure of the campaign itself.
Elections ACT's push to encourage early voting as a precaution against COVID-19 has proven successful, with more than half the electorate casting their vote by Wednesday.
But the pre-poll rush has robbed the campaign of its traditional story arc, the typical steady build up of energy and expectation which reaches a climax in the hours before polling day.
The parties unveiled most of their major policies in the past two or three weeks, meaning the campaign has petered out in the final days as Barr and Coe front the cameras to repeat well-known messages.
The campaign has been without major flashpoints or scandal, probably to the relief of the chief combatants and their party strategists.
The campaign's only televised leaders debate presented the most high-pressure setting, with the clearly nervous Barr and at times evasive and vague Coe probably sharing the points in what was a relatively tame affair.
But the campaign wasn't entirely without candidate gaffe or controversy.
Candice Burch's suggestion that the Liberals would consider Belconnen, rather than Woden, for the next stage of light rail sparked 24 hours of controversy.
Burch again found herself in hot water when she ridiculed Labor's plan to offer free lunches to underprivileged school children, a response education minister Yvette Berry described as "disgusting".
The Liberals' also faced questions about candidate Robert Johnson, first over his appearance in articles misrepresenting his military service and then over his reported links to the groups associated with the Chinese Community Party's overseas influence network.
Coe and the Liberals stood by the candidate, dismissing the articles as incorrect and rejecting outright any links he had to the CCP.
'Status quo looks fairly appealing'
For Jill Sheppard, a professor at ANU's school of politics and international relations, the 2020 ACT election campaign hasn't been defined by one overriding narrative or issue, as it was with light rail in 2016.
She put that down to the pandemic.
"No matter how much the Liberal party tries to set the agenda ... it's really hard to get away from the fact that we are living in a pandemic. It's tough for any Opposition in this kind of context."
Professor Sheppard said both major parties had run the campaigns they needed to run.
While not predicting a result on Saturday, she questioned whether there was a mood for change in Canberra, even after 19 years of Labor.
"Most of us vote for the same party all the time," she said.
"If we were going to change votes it's because something becomes really salient to us, really urgent and important.
"At the moment I don't think there is any headway in trying to make other issues seem more important. Cost of living is probably as close as you can get.
"The status quo is probably fairly appealing to most voters."