Charles Sr passes baton to children
Pearnel Charles Sr, the veteran trade unionist and agitator, is bowing out of politics but will watch as his offspring carry on the family legacy in Parliament.
Pearnel Charles Jr crushed the People’s National Party’s (PNP) Patricia Duncan Sutherland, member of another political family, in Thursday’s poll, having burnished his reputation as a former senator and as minister without portfolio within the incumbent administration.
He defeated Duncan Sutherland by 2,962 to retain the Clarendon South Eastern seat, which he first won in a by-election in March.
The younger Pearnel’s victory puts the Charleses in a better position than the Duncans, with Patricia and sibling Imani Duncan Price, who ran on PNP tickets, each going down in defeat for a second consecutive time.
The Charleses made it two from two on Thursday, with Dr Michelle Charles ousting family nemesis Dr Fenton Ferguson.
Ferguson, who routed Charles Sr from the St Thomas Eastern seat in 1993, lost what would have been a seventh consecutive term last night against Michelle Charles.
Yesterday, Charles Jr polled 10,219 votes to Duncan Sutherland’s 7,257.
The Charles family has made several attempts to retake the Senate but has been rejected by the voters, albeit with Ferguson winning with reduced margins.
He was pitted against Patrece Charles-Freeman in 2011, defeating her by a margin of 473 votes in an election where the JLP had been battered two to one at the polls by the PNP.
Charles Sr, who represented the St Thomas constituency for a dozen years, said he focused his energies on helping Michelle with her campaign because of her newness to the seat.
“They have chosen by themselves that they would like to follow the route that I chose to serve the people,” Charles said of his children’s venture into politics.
“They said that they have put their profession aside for the time being. I wouldn’t stop them, because I found pleasure in serving the people of Jamaica. But I wasn’t a doctor or an attorney. Probably if I were, I would have had a different approach,” he said on the eve of the election.
After losing to Ferguson, Charles Sr eventually went on to represent Clarendon North Central. He also served as speaker of the House of Representatives.
The patriarch’s history in politics has been colourful, and at times uncomfortably candid and adversarial.
“The first election I ran, I lost, you know. I lost the election in St Ann, and then I run three straight and lose, and then run in Clarendon and lose,” he said to underscore that he knew what defeat tasted like.
Charles Sr served the House of Representatives for seven terms, in total, and the Senate for two terms. He also served at the municipal level as a councillor in the then Kingston and St Andrew Parish Council for two terms.
When Charles Jr won the Clarendon South Eastern seat on March 2, it was a proud moment for the family, with both father and son holding seats in Parliament at the same time.
Charles Sr’s satisfaction is complete knowing that there will be a brother-sister coalition in the House.
“If both of them come home and both of them in the Parliament, that wouldn’t be a problem,” Charles Sr said ahead of the vote.