By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
GRAND Bahama is experiencing for the first time the largest surge of independent candidates and new political parties to contest the five constituency seats in the 2021 general election.
Of the 33 persons nominated on Friday, 23 are either independent candidates or candidates of new political parties. Some of them have split from the two major political parties – the FNM and PLP.
With the second largest population in the country, Grand Bahama has always played a significant role in the overall outcome of the elections. In 2017, the electorate voted and elected all FNM candidates in the five seats, giving the FNM a landslide victory in the general polls.
During nomination day in Grand Bahama, many candidates were excited and eager to finally be officially nominated.
In Pineridge, FNM candidate Welbourne Bootle, a veteran senior police officer, said he is about giving service to the people.
“It is about the people, it is not about the theatrics; it is about service to the people,” he said, after filing his nomination papers on Friday. “I have served well in Grand Bahama for over 19 to 20 years. So, for me, it is about service. That is what it takes, and I have proven that, and this is what I want to do and will continue to do in Pineridge.”
Mr Bootle plans to assist women in the community through educational and vocational assistance. He also wants to address other issues like road repair.
Ginger Moxey is the PLP’s candidate for Pineridge.
There are four other candidates contesting that seat, including incumbent Frederick McAlpine, Tavia Lowe, Belinda Williams, and Shandokan Wilson.
In Marco City, incumbent Michael Pintard, and seven other candidates are nominated. There are a total of 6,289 eligible voters in Marco City.
PLP candidate Curt Hollingsworth is an educator. He claims that infrastructure upgrades are needed in Marco City.
He also said that he wants to ensure there are opportunities for young people.
“As a former coach and athlete and educator, I have been doing this all of my life; I have been serving all my life providing opportunities for young men and young women, and this is just another level in which I am prepared to serve the people of Marco City and Grand Bahama.”
Educator Stephone Forbes, the candidate for the DNA, said the party is still a viable choice.
“Going forward I intend to hit the ground even more and let the people know our presence is felt here in Marco City. We want to let them know the DNA is still here as the alternative for change.”
Crystal Smith, a candidate for Coalition of Independents, said Marco City is ready for change.
“A small victory has been won for the people of MC. This is the first step into a new Bahamas. I want the people of Marco City to know change is coming and change is here.”
Also nominated was a candidate for Marco City, Demetrius Symonette.
“The prayers of the Bahamian people have been answered and we will show the nation how we are ready to serve,” he said.
Kevin Ferguson, a former supporter of the PLP, has also been nominated as an independent candidate in Marco City.
“My plan is to hit the road running trying to get the message out to the Bahamian people of MC that change has to come. We have to look at what people have to offer, what they are talking about,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said he has served as former chief councilor for the City of Freeport.
Candidate Albert Cleare is urging residents to vote.
“After this election, we still are all Bahamians. We still got to live together. I say to the Bahamas, follow your heart, don’t follow your head,” he said.
Dexter Edwards, the candidate of the Righteous Government Movement, said this is time for righteous men and women in government.
“God wants righteous men and women in positions who are going to fight this battle. So, I am excited to be in position at this time,” he said.
In Central Grand Bahama, incumbent Iram Lewis said the FNM is the best party to move the country forward. Mr Lewis, a native of the small community of Water Cay, is a former Olympian and an architect by profession.
“I feel honoured that I would have been nominated again to represent CGB,” he said. “I am just continuing to work with the residents of Central GB. The FNM is the best party to move this country forward, we are on a trajectory that we don’t need to break. Yes, there were some challenges, but those challenges made us even stronger and more resilient, and we believe we are even more prepared to lead this country forward.”
The PLP’s candidate is Kirkland Russell, a chef by profession and veteran trade unionist.
“I am excited, and I am confident and ready to serve,” he said.
Mr Russell said that his track record speaks loudly. “My track record in the labour movement fighting for workers spans over 20 years, working in my community as a local government practitioner and as chairman of my township, working with my church at St Vincent, and working with youth organisations in West Grand Bahama,” he said.
Latanya Strachan, the candidate for Coalition of Independents, believes that the Bahamian people are ready for new governance.
United Coalition Movement candidate Troy Garvey said both major political parties must go.
“I want to tell people don’t get fooled again,” he said. “We have been taken advantage of too long by… the two political parties. The fact of the matter, (their) time is up, time to go home, time to sit down and let the youths take over who has the interest of the people at heart.”
In West Grand Bahama and Bimini, incumbent Pakesia Parker Edgecombe will go up against the PLP’s former representative Obie Wilchcombe, who lost to her in 2017.
Also nominated as candidates are Randall Cooper, Stefon Hall, Mario Mott, Wesley Peet, Hyram Rolle, Obrien Rolle, and Daquan Swain.