JLP, PNP step up candidate selection
Robert Miller (left) and Oswest Senior–Smith.
Although the next General Election is not constitutionally due until 2021, the country’s two major political parties have stepped up their candidate selection exercise.
Both the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) introduced new, but high profile candidate-caretakers on Sunday, as they target two key marginal and battleground seats.
In the case of the JLP, Prime Minister and party leader Andrew Holness presented his long time advisor and educator, Robert Miller, during a rally at the Southborough Primary School in the South Eastern St Catherine constituency which is currently held by the PNP’s Colin Fagan.
The JLP has been targeting the constituency for the last four elections but has come up short on each occasion, losing in 2016 by some 395 votes. However, the JLP sense that they have a realistic chance of wresting the Portmore seat from the PNP next time around. Miller is confident he can win the seat.
He told cheering Labourites that the country is moving in the right direction under the leadership of the Prime Minister.
“I say to you and I tell everyone that I’m not here in South East St Catherine to lose. Losing is not in my vocabulary,” said a fired up Miller.
Deputy JLP Leader, James Robertson, who was among the party hierarchy to endorse Miller, warned Fagan that his days as MP are numbered.
“I say to that man name Colin, you are not going to run (in) the next general election. The PNP are going to change you, they have to change you but it is not going to save you…”
Meanwhile, in the marginal North East St Catherine seat, it will be a battle of the lawyers next time round. On Sunday, Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips formally presented well known criminal attorney, Oswest Senior–Smith as the PNP’s candidate-caretaker for the next election. The sitting MP is the JLP’s Leslie Campbell, also an attorney-at-law. Former MP for the constituency, the PNP’s Phyliss Mitchell, lost the 2016 election to Campbell by a mere 121 votes. North East St Catherine is a key swing constituency and will likely determine who controls the House of Representatives next time around. The JLP currently has a three seat advantage in the House and will be keen to hold on to the seat.
In presenting Senior-Smith to Comrades, Phillips spoke to Mitchell’s narrow defeat last time out and why Senior-Smith is the right man for the job.
“I remember with some pain…that we lost this constituency by a hundred and 20 little bit votes. And that is because we need a little bit more work …,” said Phillips.
In recent times, other high profile candidates that have been unveiled by the two major parties are veteran attorney, Valerie Neita-Robertson who will contest Eastern Portland on the PNP’s ticket. She will go up against the JLP’s Ann-marie Vaz, the wife of longstanding West Portland MP, Daryl Vaz.
And Education Minister Ruel Reid will contest the battleground seat of North West St Ann against the incumbent, Dr Dayton Campbell of the PNP.