A letter to da Editor
Dear Bahamas Press,
Now that both major parties have released their list of candidates for the 2012 election, I would like to share some of my thoughts. My first review is of the governments list of ratified candidates and then I will share with you my review of the PLP’s list in a few days.
Firstly, the governing party has ratified 38 candidates. When you look at these individuals, the first thing that jumps out at me is that 13% (5 out of 38) of the candidates are incumbents who have been placed in a different constituency. 21% (8 out of 38) of the ratified candidates had been rejected by voters at least once and 34% (13 out of 38) of the FNM candidates are first time candidates.
The break down is as follows:
13% (5/38) of Incumbents are placed in new constituencies
1. Zhivargo Laing – leaving Marco City and is placed in Fort Charlotte. He previously won Marco City in 2007 by 47 votes
2. Loretta Butler-Turner – leaving Montague and is placed in Long island. She previously won Montague by 1,301 votes
3. Desmond Bannister – leaving Carmichael and is placed in North Andros and Berry Islands. He previously won Carmichael by 444 votes.
4. Phenton Neymour – leaving South Beach and is placed in Exuma and Ragged Island. He previously won South Beach by 299 votes
5. Sidney Collie – leaving Blue Hills and is placed in MICAL. He previously won Blue Hills by 47 votes
What is so striking about this list of incumbents is that 3 of the 5 (Loretta Turner, Desmond Bannister and Phenton Neymour) won by a large enough margin that they should have been renominated for that constituency under normal circumstances. But the circumstances heading into the 2012 election are not favorable for the governing party.
Two things are in play here: 1) The new boundaries and 2) Constituent rejection. For example, some of Loretta’s strong FNM polling divisions have been removed. This has weakened her, but the goal here is to place those polling divisions in a nearby constituency to help strengthen weak or struggling FNM candidates. With the new changes, Loretta’s chances of winning Montagu decreases so to protect her, Mr Ingraham moves her out of there all together.
It’s all about the big picture here. By trying to help nearby constituencies, Montagu is now in play for the PLP and a weakened Loretta is reshuffled.
Then you have Phenton and Desmond leaving their respective constituencies. This probably reflects the shift in constituent attitudes toward these candidates as South Beach and Carmichael are historically toss up constituencies that can go either way. So the feedback and polling on the ground must be indicating bad news for both men, so they too are reshuffled.
But I think what’s even more important here is, Mr Ingraham is working hard to find seats that are favorable to as many of his vulnerable Cabinet Ministers as possible. This is not a good sign for a governing party weeks away from an election. They all can’t quit like Earl Deveaux so I guess the next best thing is to shuffle them around.
21% (8/38) of the ratified candidates were previously rejected in a general election
1. Cassius Stuart – lost St Margaret in 2002 by 1,519 votes and lost garden Hills in 2007 by 1,705 votes
2. Ella Lewis – lost Farm Road and Centerville in 2007 by 933 votes
3. Duane Sands – lost Elizabeth in February 2010 by 3 vote
4. Tommy Turnquest – lost Mt Moriah in 2002 by 118 votes
5. Carl Bethel – lost Holy Cross in 2002 by 232 votes
6. Dion Foulkes – lost Blue Hills in 2002 by 640 votes and lost MICAL in 2007 by 39 votes
7. Ronald Bostfield – lost South Andros in 2002 by 214 votes
8. Zhivargo Laing – lost Fort Charlotte in 2002 by 657 votes
All of these candidates, with the exception of Cassius Stuart, are running for basically the same seat that they had lost before. With the FNM facing such strong head winds, there has to be a measure of concern about voter fatigue with these candidates. When any of these candidates canvass, will constituents look at them and say, “been there, done that, next”?
Does the voter want something fresh as guys like Staurt, Bethel, Laing and Foulkes all have a degree of political and ethical baggage. This is the gamble Mr Ingraham is taking on some of these retreads!
You also have to take time into account. If a general election is 4-8 weeks away, do these candidates have the time to re-establish themselves again? Do they have enough time to mend fences and reconnect?
And then there is the ‘stench of loosing” that some of these candidates have on them. Dion and Cassius, for example have lost 2 elections in a row.
Realistically speaking, all 8 of these candidates have their work cut out for them. None of them have an easy win and considering the mood of the country, its not far fetched to say they all could loose.
New faces (13/38) 34%
1. Caron Shepherd- Englerston
2. Shonel Ferguson – Fox Hill
3. Winsome Miller – Golden Gates
4. Heather Hunt – Marathon
5. Richard Lightbourne – Montagu
6. Basil Moss – Nassau Village
7. Monique Gomez – South Beach
8. Norris Bain – Marco City
9. Pakesia Edgecombe – West Grand Bahama and Bimini
10. Theo Neilly – North Eleuthera
11. Howard Johnson – Central and South Eleuthera
12. Michael Pintard – Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador
13. Peter Turnquest – East Grand Bahama
What we must not forget is, Mr Ingraham can only afford to loose no more than 3 seats. He looses more than 3, he looses the government. So if he looses an incumbent, he needs to win a few seats out of this group of candidates. You can break down these 13 names into 2 groups: the “You have a shot” group and the “Lamb to the slaughter” group.
69% (9/13) of the first time candidates are in the “Lamb to the slaughter” group
1. Caron Shepherd – Englerston
2. Winsome Miller – Golden Gates
3. Heather Hunt – Marathon
4. Basil Moss – Nassau Village
5. Monique Gomez – South Beach
6. Norris Bain – Marco City
7. Howard Johnson – Central and South Eleuthera
8. Michael Pintard – Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador
9. Pakesia Edgecombe – West Grand Bahama and Bimini
With the exception of Marco City, Marathon and South Beach, the other 6 seats are in areas that are considered PLP strongholds. The other 3 seats, all lean PLP right now! Its a safe bet to say these will all be PLP seats!
This leaves 4 out of the 13 seats among the new comers that the FNM can potentially pick up:
1. Fox Hill, Shonel Ferguson – as much name recognition Fred Mitchell has, he initially won his seat by 1,000 or so votes in 2002, but only won by 63 votes in 2007. When you add in Mr Ingraham’s hatred of Fred and the new boundary cuts, this seat will go down to the wire again.
2. Montagu, Richard Lightbourne – Frank Smith could be in for a tough race. I think he will eek it out, but I wont be surprised if this seat flips FNM. The boundary cuts may do him in too.
3. North Eleuthera, Theo Neilly – Alvin Smith is the incumbent, but he isn’t running. He won this seat by 80+ votes. This seat can go either way!
4. East Grand Bahama, Peter Turnquest – I expect the FNM to hold on the Kenneth Russell’s seat!
Right now we are watching Mr Ingraham attempt to manage his losses. The boundary cuts were about reshuffling PLP polling divisions to weaken the PLP. But if a PLP wave is coming, that move will be negated.
We also have to take into account how the DNA will impact the FNM at the polls. Will the votes of the DNA in any constituency be enough to affect the outcome of a few races? That is the question! The DNA doesn’t even have to split votes with the FNM, they just have to take enough away, maybe a few hundred, to help the PLP pick up a seat or two. That is the danger they pose to the FNM.
With all the retreads, MP shuffling and an unimpressive list of political new comers, the only thing that comes to my mind to describe the moves by Mr Ingraham is “pessimistically cautious.” This is as safe as you can play it. Mr Ingraham isn’t trying to wow or impress here. Its as if he knows the public wont buy it.
The moves Mr Ingraham has made also reflects a degree worry. It’s like battening up your house before a storm comes. You don’t mind loosing some tress, shingles and a few damaged windows, but his main concern is the extent of the damage to the house itself, after the storm. In other words, Mr Ingraham is bracing his party for defeat, and is hoping it’s a defeat his party can stomach.