BARRY O’FARRELL has moved to seize the moral high ground before the Penrith byelection today, promising a campaign free of smear and personal attacks through to next year’s poll after his candidate, Stuart Ayres, was targeted by the Labor Party.”I think the public has had a gutful of the politics of personal denigration, attacks and smears,” Mr O’Farrell said.”What the public of NSW want, after 15 years of government that’s promised everything and delivered nothing, is to know what the parties are offering them that is going to improve the state come the next election.”Labor accused Mr Ayres yesterday of a secret preference deal with the Australian Democrats candidate, Jose Sanz, who only joined the Democrats last month.Labor accused Mr Sanz, who served as an air force cadet with Mr Ayres, of being a ”dummy candidate” who was running in a bid to split the non-Labor vote.The claim was dismissed as a smear by the Liberal state director, Mark Neeham.Mr Ayres has been the subject of claims that he does not live in the electorate, despite the fact he and his partner, the Liberal senator Marise Payne, are building a house in the area.On ABC TV, the Labor candidate, John Thain, was questioned about Labor’s ”dirty tricks” campaign and responded by criticising Labor head office. ”I would have rather they didn’t,” he said. ”I would have just rather we kept it grass roots.”However, a senior Labor source told the Herald it was a ”strategic decision” to have Mr Thain ”distance himself from any negative campaigning and focus on the positive.”Mr O’Farrell said his team had run a ”strong and positive campaign that presents practical ways to address local issues” in Penrith. He rejected the suggestion voters would remember the Liberals’ anti-Muslim smear campaign in the federal seat of Lindsay, which covers Penrith, before the 2007 federal election.”The point there is that one of the first things I did as Leader of the Opposition is, not only did I distance myself from it immediately, but secondly I went and personally apologised to the Muslim community for what I described as unacceptable and un-Liberal,” he said.”That’s been dealt with in the way it should be dealt with.”Mr O’Farrell said there was a ”different state leader, different state focus, different view of the leader about what people in NSW and Penrith want. There’s been no hint of that, no suggestion of that and, frankly, it would not have been tolerated.”Labor has forecast a swing of up to 30 per cent to the Liberals, so it can claim any smaller swing is a positive result. It publicised internal polling last month that predicted a 27 per cent swing and a 68 per cent primary vote to the Liberals.The result is set to be worse than the previous greatest swing, when the Liberals won John Watkins’s former seat of Ryde in the 2008 byelection with a swing of 23 per cent.The senior Labor source said: ”It’s the worst set of factors imaginable. We’re going to get punished for making the public go to the polls twice in 10 months.”At the next state election, the Coalition needs to gain 11 seats on a swing of 7.6 per cent to achieve majority government. On the electoral pendulum, Penrith would be the 13th seat to fall.