On your ‘Mark’! - Golding set to take the plunge into representational politics as he seeks to replace Omar Davies
After years of disinterest in representational politics, Mark Golding has confirmed what those in political circles have been saying for months, he wants to be the next People's National Party (PNP) standard-bearer in the St Andrew South constituency.
The Opposition senator, who served as justice minister from the Senate in the Portia Simpson Miller administration, is set to replace the ailing Dr Omar Davies, who political sources say was begged to contest the last general election.
Golding the lawyer, businessman and avid sports enthusiast, last week told The Sunday Gleaner that he changed gears in the last two months and is now ready to enter the deep and often confusing trenches of representational politics.
"I didn't want to change my lifestyle that profoundly. But what has happened is that I got to know the constituency through being on the executive. I have been a vice-chairman for several years.
"Omar and I are close, and he was always keen on me following after him to continue the work that he started. Especially in the area of education ..." said Golding, the chairman of the PNP's legislative committee.
He is one of at least four persons who have indicated an interest in replacing Davies in the constituency, which has been held by the PNP since it was created.
Golding, who was a part of Davies' campaign team during his unsuccessful bid to replace P.J. Patterson as PNP president in 2006, has long been hand-picked by some residents of St Andrew South to replace their long-serving member of parliament whenever he decides to call it a day.
He said he decided to change gears following the recent health episode suffered by Davies.
According to Golding, although Davies' illness has not impacted his work, it "has brought forward the day of reckoning for a successor, whoever that is".
Golding said Davies is aware of the stress and the need to take things easy, and prompting from the constituency brought him to the moment of political truth.
"I realised then that I needed to be more definitive. So what I have said is that it is something I am prepared to do as part of the overall renewal process in the party which I would like to see, so that it can evolve in a positive direction in keeping with its core philosophies and its heritage."
Golding is aware that others have been showing interest in the constituency for some time as Davies had signalled that 2011 would be his last election before he was prevailed on to contest the 2016 poll.
He noted that the PNP's constitution does not provide for an heir apparent so anyone can show interest and seek to get the nod when a vacancy occurs.
"I am approaching it with open mind and open heart. If the people want the kind of leadership I can offer then I offer myself," said Golding as he argued that he wants to build on Davies' legacy, especially in terms of education, as this would be the finest way of honouring the man who introduced him to the political process.
"So in the last two months I have been trying to get to know the constituents and let them get to know me. Even though I have been on the constituency executive, I have not really been on the ground.
"I have been going into the various communities to introduce myself to the people and hear what they have to say. And it's been very interesting. They are brutally frank at times. They don't mince words," said Golding.
Part of that brutal frankness is what the constituents have said is the need for economic empowerment and more of its visibility on the ground.
The successful businessman said he has taken the decision to enter representational politics with the support of his family, even though his grown children have reservations about the possible loss of daddy time, and family time.
"My wife is a very cool person. She has always given me a lot of space to pursue whatever was interesting to me. She has never tried to stop me from doing what I have wanted to do. So obviously, going into representational politics will be a major change for the family, the family time we enjoy together, and the constituents are going to have their own demands, and that's really been, for me, one of the main reasons why I was hesitant," said Golding.
Last week, Golding moved effortlessly through sections of Torrington Park in the constituency meeting and greeting residents.
"He (Omar) has always wanted me to be the political representative. He sees the bigger picture, which is that, even in a Cabinet, if you are not representing a seat that you have won, your influence is compromised, because you didn't help to deliver power to the government," said Golding.
But Golding told our news team that while serving as a Cabinet minister in the previous administration he did not feel weaker by not having a seat.
"I have always found, though, that my influence was not undermined by that. It's if one wants to assert oneself and put forward cogent arguments to support your position, and if especially if you have a prime minister who is supportive of you," argued Golding.
He said Simpson Miller was supportive of him.
"She is a very warm and loving person and very appreciative of the efforts made, and frequently she, and others, have voiced appreciation in Cabinet. She was very appreciative of the legislative work done."
As minister of justice, Golding piloted 123 pieces of legislation ranging from amendments to existing laws to the creation of new ones which were passed.