Tue | Dec 1, 2020

We’re not sacrificial lambs - St Catherine Comrades say they have fighting chance in JLP strongholds

Published:Thursday | August 27, 2020 | 12:22 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
Kenyama Brown, People’s National Party candidate for St Catherine West Central, seen handing out care packages in the constituency recently.
Kenyama Brown, People’s National Party candidate for St Catherine West Central, seen handing out care packages in the constituency recently.

Candidates running against strong incumbents in constituencies that are considered safe seats are usually seen as sacrificial lambs.

In the constituencies of St Catherine South Western, West Central, South Central, and Central, considered to be safe Jamaica Labour party seats, the opposing People’s National Party candidates are refusing to be branded by that label.

Their verdict: Don’t put us on the chopping block just yet.

Kenyama Brown, the party’s standard-bearer in St Catherine West Central, where the JLP has won eight of the last nine parliamentary elections held in the constituency, said he refused to see himself in that light.

“I have some supporters who will say they are tired of losing, but PNP voters in this constituency are sensitive and they respond to who can inspire them,” Brown told The Gleaner.

He continued: “I managed to energise my own supporters and some [from the] JLP by my approach of engagement and articulating my vision for the constituency.”

Brown said that his candidacy would be boosted by discontentment, even among Labourites, that the incumbent, Dr Christopher Tufton, has been a television member of parliament who is hardly seen in the constituency.

Tufton, Jamaica’s minister of health and wellness, defeated Clinton Clarke in 2016 by garnering 64 per cent of the vote to Clarke’s 35 per cent.

In St Catherine South Western, where the PNP has only won four times, first in 1976, then in 1989, 1993, and 1997, incumbent Everald Warmington has carried on the JLP winning streak since returning to the seat in 2007 after leaving for 10 years when he suffered his second defeat in 1997 to Jennifer Edwards.

Warmington defeated the late Rudyard Mears by 2,731 votes in the 2016 general election for the seat he first won in 1980.

PNP challenger Dr Kurt Waul said his supporters are motivated by the work he has been doing in the constituency in addition to what he described as incumbency fatigue on the part of Warmington.

“The voters are gravitating to the message of a new style of representation, with emphasis on improving their standard of living and community infrastructure, as well as my philanthropic endeavours, which I enjoy doing,” Waul disclosed.

He pointed out that Warmington’s announcement last year that he would retire if and when he wins the election is also a big factor in exciting voters to support someone who will be around for a long time representing their interests.

In the constituency of St Catherine Central, where Babsy Grange has been unbeaten since 1997, PNP challenger Maurice Westney, vice-principal of the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, is also of the view that his message of opportunities and infrastructural development will excite the electorate to cast their votes for him.

But despite his optimism, the constituents are saying that it is almost impossible to defeat Grange, who easily disposed of Norris Grant in 2016, polling 9,325 votes, a whopping 80 per cent of the votes cast to Grant’s 2,208, or 19 per cent.

Kurt Matthews in St Catherine South Central has also dispelled the notion that he is a sacrificial lamb, citing his campaign of integrity and creativity as a pull factor for the voters against two-term incumbent Andrew Wheatley, who is seeking a third term.

Matthews, too, will have an uphill climb to get the better of Wheatley, who amassed 8,283 votes in 2016 to defeat the PNP candidate Courtney Spence, who polled 2,929.