Straight fight for Central Jamaica seats
Having won 10 of the 18 constituencies in Clarendon and St Catherine, the political machine designed to organise the People's National Party (PNP) in those southeastern parishes is taking aim at capturing two additional parliamentary seats in the next general election.
The seats targeted are currently represented by senior members of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) - South East Clarendon, where Rudyard Spencer is member of parliament (MP), and South West St Catherine, the constituency of Everald Warmington.
Denise Daley, the chairman for the PNP Region 4, which covers the two parishes, would not confirm the seats being targeted, but expressed confidence the party will increase its seat count in the region.
"The region is doing well. We did very well in the last election and we are expected to do even better because there are two other seats, one in Clarendon and one in St Catherine, that we are hoping we will be able to put in the winning column for the People's National Party," Daley said.
The Eastern St Catherine MP said that there was an intense enumeration exercise in the region and boasted of strong political organisation within the two targeted seats that could swing them to the PNP.
South West St Catherine has voted for Warmington in the last three general elections, after previously giving two successive terms to the PNP's Jennifer Edwards.
Warmington, a feisty individual, has seen his winning margin in 2007 of 3,064 dwindle to 916 in the last election. The PNP has put Rudyard 'Kippy' Mears in the constituency as its caretaker with the aim of putting an end to his reign as MP.
Over in Clarendon, Patricia Duncan Sutherland, daughter of veteran campaigner D.K. Duncan, is the PNP's standard-bearer, who will be seeking to remove Spencer. Thought to be vulnerable, Spencer has seen his winning margin sliced to 107 in 2011, coming from a high of 2,268 in 2007. He first won the seat in 2002 with a 597 margin.
Spencer yesterday conceded that Duncan Sutherland will be a formidable opponent but said he has no doubt he will be re-elected.
"She is a worthwhile opponent. I expect her to do well ... . It might not be as close as the last election, but I expect her to put up a good fight," Spencer said.
"I will retain the seat for the JLP, that is for sure. What I am concerned about is how well the other people will do," he added.
Of the 23 seats across the island, which were won by 1,000 votes or less in the 2011 general election, five of those are in St Catherine and Clarendon, three of which have JLP MPs. In fact, in addition to South East Clarendon and South West St Catherine, another JLP constituency - North East St Catherine - is in the danger zone and is being targeted by the PNP.
North East St Catherine was won by Gregory Mair in 2011 by 618 votes, way below the 959 margin he recorded in 2007, and PNP insiders feel that one-time MP Phyllis Mitchell can unseat him in the next election.
The two other seats in the region which were won with fewer than 1,000 votes are East Central St Catherine (558), where Arnaldo Brown is being challenged by the JLP's Alando Terrelonge, and North West Clarendon, which is held by Richard Azan.
Azan, a junior works minister, overturned Michael Stern's 2007 winning margin of 933 votes in the 2011 general election which he won by 899 votes. With a general election on the horizon, PNP leader Portia Simpson Miller will be in Spaldings, North West Clarendon, today attending Azan's constituency conference and seeking to ensure the seat stays with the PNP.
Spencer said yesterday that he expected Area Council 3, which he leads, to win the majority of seats in the next elections, including Azan's.
"We are expecting to win in the region of eight or nine seats in the area council (Manchester, Clarendon and St Ann), and that would put us in good stead in winning the elections," he said.
The JLP currently holds five of the 14 seats in the Manchester, Clarendon, and St Ann political bloc.