The Labor Party is confident of elevating two councillors to the City of Sydney at tomorrow’s make-or-break poll, despite an expected landslide endorsing dog-collared incumbent Clover Moore as mayor.

Moore is running nine candidates as part of her so-called Independent Team, and is expected to garner either four or five councillors out of 10 (including herself) in the two separate ballots. The remainder will split between the Liberals, Greens, Labor and outsiders Living Sydney. Her shoo-in odds to continue her eight-year reign blew out this week from an unbackable $1.03 to $1.35 before moving back to $1.12 after a plunge.

The election of Labor’s No.1 and No.2 — refugee advocate Linda Scott and activist beak Damian Spruce — would allow the party, buoyed by its recent win in the Heffron byelection, to forward and second motions and potentially hold the balance of power during meetings.

Four years ago, a councillor needed to get 5842 votes to be elected with a quota of 10% on a 70% turnout. Labor’s Meredith Burgmann picked up 9000 votes in the mayoral ballot against 56.5% or 34,000 for Moore. In the second council ballot, Labor drew 7395 votes against the Liberals’ 7241 and the Greens’ 8876, and Moore’s 23,320, suggesting it will need a significant swing to bolster its muscle.

There are about 70,000 potential voters in City of Sydney — which encompasses  a grab-bag of inner-city suburbs following the Carr government’s re-amalgamation of the council with South Sydney Council in 2004.

Labor general secretary Sam Dastyari has expressed his satisfaction with the party’s primary preselection experiment, which drew in more than 4000 residents to anoint Scott as their local champion. Spruce will butt up against Tony Abbott’s sister, Christine Forster, who is second on the Liberal ticket behind tech head and local powerbroker Edward Mandla.

Abbott was sighted campaigning at Pyrmont last weekend for his little sis and has donated a pair of Speedos to the cause.

Mandla assumed the top position after Shayne Mallard announced he would contest the upcoming Sydney lower house byelection — the endgame of Barry O’Farrell’s “get Clover” law banning NSW councillors from simultaneously holding seats in the Macquarie Street bearpit.

Big issues in the campaign have been over alcohol-fuelled violence in Kings Cross (but also in Newtown and Glebe), the underground burying of electricity wires and reliable local services. Labor has also proposed that wards be re-introduced to make sure, for example, a pensioner living in public housing in Rosebery isn’t effectively represented by an apartment toff in Potts Point. Tension has also been bubbling over the use of so-called tri-generation to power Sydney’s carbon-sapping buildings.

There is substantial agitation for high-profile civil liberties chief Cameron “son of Lionel” Murphy to run in the Sydney byelection triggered by Moore’s resignation following her expected win. Murphy was pipped by Scott by a handful of votes in the party preselection. Other strong Labor contenders are Ashley Ubrihien from the CPSU and Labor for Refugees barrister Shane Prince.

But Murphy, who has been hesitant to commit to a run in the past, told Crikey this morning that he was far from certain to throw his hat in the ring. “Who knows, there might not even be a byelection,” he said.