Thu | Jul 9, 2020

Campbell, Lee relish looming election battle in St Ann NW

Published:Monday | June 29, 2020 | 12:00 AMRomario Scott/Gleaner Writer
Krystal Lee (right) and Councillor Kim Brown-Lawrence walk through Brown’s Town doing house-to-house visits.
Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for St Ann North West, Krystal Lee (centre), campaigning in the battleground constituency last week.
Dr Dayton Campbell, member of parliament for St Ann North West, speaking about his plans for the constituency on June 24.
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There is no doubt in the mind of People’s National Party (PNP) standard-bearer Dr Dayton Campbell that pulling out the voters in the upcoming general election will be difficult, but he believes he has the organisational machinery in place to trounce Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) rival Krystal Lee.

The two are expected to square off at the polls for the right to represent St Ann North West, one of the battleground seats that will be closely watched when the election date is announced.

When The Gleaner visited the constituency last week, political activities were well under way before midday, including canvassing, house-to-house visits, and training for election-day workers.

JLP councillor for the Brown’s Town division, Kim Brown-Lawrence, was in a section of the division called Woodlands, and Campbell had been conducting training of his election-day workers.

Campbell, in February 2016, won the seat against Othneil Lawrence by a 365-vote margin giving the PNP nine to three, 478 votes less than what he received in 2011.

The first five elections after the seat was created in 1959 went to the PNP. It took Princess Lawes’ victory over Arnold Bertram in 1980 for the JLP to break the PNP’s spell.

The St Ann North West constituency was one of those realigned since the 2007 general election.

Voter turnout for the last five elections, dating back to 1989, averages about 65 per cent.

This time around, however, Campbell said he has plans to stretch his margin,driven by strong enumeration numbers.

“I can say to you in no uncertain terms that of the persons that have been added to the list in the last election, we have the overwhelming majority because I have a strategic target with the enumeration programme,” a confident Campbell told The Gleaner outside of his office.

He said, too, that all his workers were in place for election-day work.

LACK OF FUNDS

But with experts predicting a second wave of COVID-19, there is bound to be a shift in how campaign managers use funds and target voters.

“Lack of funds ... , that will affect the JLP, not me. We have never depended on money to win an election. We have always needed enough funds to run a campaign and do what we need to do,” he said.

And Campbell is also denying that he is worried about Lee denying him a third consecutive term as MP.

Lee, however, disputes his assertion that a majority of the new voters have been added by his team.

“It’s more like 50-50,” she said, crediting Ruel Reid for an aggressive enumeration drive.

Reid, who shelved his parliamentary ambitions, and Brown-Lawrence are both embroiled in a corruption case with Reid’s wife and daughter and Caribbean Maritime University President Fritz Pinnock.

The JLP standard-bearer, who sits in the St Mary Municipal Corporation for the Retreat division, told The Gleaner that the ground was shifting from under the feet of Campbell, accusing him of being busy building a national profile while the constituency was being neglected.

“I am not a bag of mouth. I am a package of reality,” said Lee.

“I have no problem if he lives in the bubble and thinks that I am no threat to him,” added Lee, who said she has more than 18 years of political experience.

Lee said she has been getting support from Labourites from all walks of life.

But Annette, a runner for the JLP, has called for reinforcement from JLP Leader Andrew Holness to “give we a strength”.

“Remember, all now we don’t have the official thing where Holness and everybody come down and seh a she a di lady. So we wah see the prime minister and fi him talk to we so we can feel the fire to run out the Comrade dem,” she said.

Campbell believes that the Reid-Brown-Lawrence corruption allegations will have some impact on voters, but he said that he doubted that his Rise United offensive against the leadership of Peter Phillips could cost him votes.

VOTING FOR DEVELOPMENT

Aisha McDonald, who The Gleaner interviewed in Discovery Bay, said she would be voting for the candidate who could present a plan for the development of the townships in the constituency.

“I would be a first-time voter. I am looking for someone who would say to me, ‘In the next five years, we are going to do these developments in Brown’s Town and D-Bay,’” said McDonald.

“... When you look, you have to go to Ocho Rios or even Montego Bay for certain things. ... Brown’s Town is the main town and it is a shame what it is like.”

Currently, the PNP has no council seat in North West St Ann, having lost all four divisions in the last local government elections.

But Campbell believes that he has always disproved critics, including those inside the PNP, about his political prowess.

“A swing was against the party. The PNP lost 11 constituencies. All of the new MPs who were in a marginal seat lost, including those that had experience before – some were councillors before. I am in in one and I won!” said Campbell.

romario.scott@gleanerjm.com