BY FRED STURRUP
FN GENERAL MANAGER/MANAGING EDITOR
From a backdrop of five representatives in the House of Assembly, the governing Free National Movement (FNM), has not yet aggressively begun to campaign on the ground in Grand Bahama. Only just recently (July 15), the FNM ratified its final four candidates, one of them being Welbourne Bootle, for Pineridge.
Four others had been previously endorsed as candidates for Grand Bahama by the party: Senator J. Kwasi Thompson in East Grand Bahama; Michael Pintard in Marco City; Iram Lewis in Central Grand Bahama; and Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe in the West Grand Bahama/Bimini. However, at best, all of the FNM standard bearers have been sporadic in ground campaign work.
Meanwhile, Her Majesty’s Official Opposition Progressively Party (PLP), has gotten out of the blocks first on the campaign trail, and presently is in full command of the inside track. Campaign headquarters were opened weeks ago by James Turner, East Grand Bahama; Kirk Russell, Central Grand Bahama; Ginger Moxey, Pineridge; and Obie Wilchcombe, West Grand Bahama/Bimini. Curt Hollingsworth, who will be pitted against FNM incumbent Pintard, in Marco City, was the last to officially open his headquarters. At present, based on polls, and feedback from residents in all constituencies, it appears that the PLP will win, in the upcoming elections, at least three seats, East Grand Bahama, Pineridge and West Grand Bahama/Bimini.
For this commentary, let’s focus on EAST GRAND BAHAMA.
The incumbent former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance K. Peter Turnquest, because of a controversial civil court matter, dropped out of the race and was replaced by Sen. Thompson. While Turnquest, with what would have been two full consecutive terms under his belt as his campaign foundation, was considered a better choice for the FNM, over any put in the fight by the PLP, this is not the case for Thompson.
He is not seen as a proactive leader on the campaign trail.
Changing of parties has become normal for Bahamian voters, and with the FNM facing many detractors, low key candidates are not best suited, but the good senator was the choice of Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis and his Candidates Committee. Already though, Turner is making inroads in a traditional FNM stronghold constituency.
The PLP representative has a clean image, is a noted businessman and brings substance, because of personal achievements, to conversations with voters. Turner is a success story on his own initiative, and compares very favorably to the middle sector of the East Grand Bahama Constituency, which always supported the FNM. He exudes confidence and looks to be far in the lead, at this time of the campaign.
On the other hand, Thompson brings to the battle a background of parliamentary status, mostly because he has been aligned with the FNM, and not because of any particular political strength. Oh, he’s a nice person, but for the campaign ahead, he needs much more. In his present position as Minister of State for Finance and Grand Bahama, he is positioned to piggyback off government programs, but that might not be enough.
He is not looked at as a strong candidate, capable of continuing the long FNM run in the east. Since Kendal Nottage won the seat during the 1972 general elections, no other PLP has represented the area.
Unless Senator Thompson undergoes a solid campaign transformation, Turner could make a bit of history, becoming the first PLP Member of Parliament for the east in 50 years.