I’m sure when he was a little boy coming up in the heyday of Hubert Ingraham’s representation of the then Cooper’s Town constituency on Abaco, Renardo Curry never would have thought he would grow up one day to challenge the man for his seat and be on the cusp of doing what no other contender had done in 35 plus years. Beat Hubert Ingraham.
Now before the haters start singing in chorus saying that I’m delusional, lets look at some key factors that Papa himself has been agonizing over for almost ten years. In 2002, with only six weeks to campaign and arguably not the right amount of funds to do it with, contractor and business man Fritz R. Bootle came within a hair of beating Hubert Ingraham. In fact, as the returns came in, there was widespread panic that the FNM’s leader would join his annointed successor as a seatless wonder.
There are some in North Abaco to this day who are convinced that Ingraham manipulated the final results when he seemed certain to lose. In 2007, Bootle again came close, but not as close as he had five years earlier because of the insistence of one Cay Mills on running as an independent. Mills has supported the PLP in the past but was not successful in getting a nomination and chose to run as an independent. This severely hampered Fritz’s chances of toppling Ingraham. Ingraham won by 147 votes. 215 voters sat the elections out. If everyone who could have voted had come out and voted and if Mills hadn’t taken some PLP votes, Hubert Ingraham today would be sitting on Bell Island with the Aga Khan and the King of Spain playing dominos in his retirement.
But today is a new day. The opportunity to take Ingraham out of Parliament remains quite open and very much possible and for four years, PLP strategists have been looking for “the right candidate” for the job. Bradley Roberts, the party’s chairman, was the main voice behind the strategy to beat Hubert in his own seat, convinced that taking the head off the snake would save the nation from the FNM. Roberts may be on to something as the numbers from the last elections clearly shows the PM is on shaky ground and has been for 9 years.
Imagine how many new, young voters will be registering for the first time in North Abaco where Ingraham’s attention seems trained only on his own Cooper’s Town area. One need only look at the roads and sidewalks that abruptly start and end at the entrance and exits of the constituency to see that he could give a damn about Murphy town, Dundas Town, Crown Haven and the rest of the North. In comes Renardo Curry, a 37 businessman and numbers cruncher for the government. Armed with the right pedigree of being the son and grand son of respected Abaco pillars (his grandpa has a street named after him. Ben Curry road or drive) and firmly rooted in the church community there, Curry may indeed be the man for the job.
It doesn’t hurt that the young candidate is more photogenic than Ingraham, or that he actually works for his opponent’s ministry. The PM is a man who, with a move of the pen, would have no problems creating a problem for Curry on his job. Fortunately, Mr. Curry is contracted and has business interests outside of his government job and can survive whatever lowness the PM throws at him. Thats good because he will need it. But what Curry also has working in his favor aside from youth, good looks and obvious intelligence is the benefit of shrewd political advisors on the island as well as his own knack for smart politicking.
I participated in the Listening Tour the PLP conducted to select their candidate two months ago on North Abaco and while it was tempting to assume the youngest man in a three man race for the job to take Ingraham on was the least experienced, it turns out the guy actually had game and the moxy to pull it off. For starters, he managed to get the majority of the island’s stalwart councilors to sign a petition of support for him getting the nomination. The other shrewd move was to enlist the support of not just the previous candidate for the seat, Fritz Bootle, but also Bootle’s predecessor, Mr. Felix Sawyer to advise him.
Both men have experience in chipping away at Ingraham and with them on his side, Curry has a legitimate shot at taking Papa down. But it won’t be easy. Cheating is not out of the realm of possibility where Ingraham is concerned and on the islands, cheating and intimidation is the name of the game for the FNM. Curry has allies in the island’s youth who say they too want change and may likely see in him, the change they desire.
Then there’s Mr. Mills, the once again jilted prospective candidate. The PLP did well to not select the man. I have nothing against him but from my time in Abaco, there was a queasy uneasiness about him that gave me the creeps. Self assurance can easily be mistaken for arrogance and dude had be confused. What turned me off from him immediately was the fact that the team had not yet been on the ground for 30 minutes before he started badmouthing his opponents for the nomination. One thing I can’t stand is PLPs taking down PLPs in front of other PLPs by branding them as “new, just reach, and an FNM spy.” That was his pitch. Never mind he was making the pitch to a group of us who don’t have votes on the committee but it was the nastiness of him even thinking it was okay to do that in a room of strangers.
For his part, Mills has done a lot for Abaco but the PLP had to be careful in who it chooses. The party paid the price in 2007 for its failure to properly keep a handle on the people in its ranks and most voters still remember that. Perry Christie couldn’t risk having that happen again where volatile, uncontrollable personalities are on the front line. Apparently, the selection committee felt the same and so Curry got the nod. It is very likely Mills will make another run either as an independent or DNA candidate. Most hope he doesn’t because he has a lot to offer as a part of the PLP’s regime. But self interest is always a motivating factor in Bahamian politics so time will tell what he does. If he sticks with the PLP and shows he’s the bigger man that I hope him to be, Hubert Ingraham could start saying good bye now. You can’t be PM if you don’t have no seat and Renardo Curry is on the way to making that happen.