An unsuspecting tourist may have been forgiven for thinking the entire district of Bodden Town was throwing one big party Saturday night.
Cars jammed the sides of the main road from the public library to Cox Lumber as passing motorists honked their horns and shouted encouragement (or detraction) in the direction of two separate, competing events – announcing the political candidacies of May election hopefuls Dwayne Seymour and Robert Bodden.
Mr. Seymour, a former government minister, and Mr. Bodden, in his first campaign for public office, are among five known candidates competing for an estimated 1,400 votes (before any challenges being heard) in the district of Bodden Town East.
The two men know, along with current Minster Osbourne Bodden and perennial candidates Vincent Frederick and Arnold Berry, they could potentially need only 300-350 votes from constituents to win election to the Legislative Assembly.
“All of the candidates that are running … every one of us grew up within a mile of each other,” Mr. Seymour said.
“The people that I have talked to want change,” Mr. Robert Bodden said. “It’s not as though there’s been a shortage of ministers [representing Bodden Town]. Cayman has grown, but people haven’t necessarily benefited.”
Bodden Town East is not the only local district where a number of candidates, the majority of them independents, are already vying for the next election or considering doing so.
In neighboring Bodden Town West, former government Minister Gilbert McLean and former United Democratic Party Bodden Town Chairman Chris Saunders are running, both as independents. The Progressives and Cayman Democratic Party have not officially named their candidates for this district, but prospective candidates have been discussed by both parties.
In Newlands, independents Alva Suckoo, an incumbent, and Raul Gonzalez have officially joined the race, while local businessman Mario Rankin, also an independent, is considered a likely candidate. The Progressives were expected to run Minister Wayne Panton in the seat, but have not formally announced the party’s plans.
Independent Kent McTaggart is the only announced candidate in Savannah district, but other potential candidates include former MLA Heather Bodden and Bodden Town’s longtime political patriarch Anthony Eden.
Although the political parties’ full candidate list for Bodden Town may not be complete at the moment, the number of independent candidates currently outnumber the known party candidates by more than two-to-one.
Generally, political parties will not run more than one candidate per district in order to avoid splitting supporters’ ballots. However, in some Bodden Town districts, at least one party, the Cayman Democratic Party (formerly the UDP) has said it will back independents. CDP leader McKeeva Bush has said his group would back Mr. Eden if he seeks re-election, as well as Mr. Suckoo. Mr. Robert Bodden is a CDP party candidate.
Both major political parties’ fortunes in Bodden Town have been hit by absences or defections of candidates over the past 18 months. The Progressives lost founding member Mr. Eden and new member Mr. Suckoo toward the end of 2015 in a well-publicized dispute over same-sex unions. Meanwhile, Mr. Seymour and Mr. Saunders both left the CDP/UDP, while former UDP candidates Mark Scotland and Theresa Pitcairn decided not to contest this election.
“The parties just can’t find quality candidates,” Mr. Saunders said. “They’re trying to find them, but they haven’t been successful.”
Mr. Saunders believes the Progressives are “pulling back” from Bodden Town district to focus their efforts in the historical party stronghold of George Town.
Mr. Seymour agreed that independent candidates now have a golden opportunity in Cayman’s first capital.
“Normally, the parties would have probably declared by now, started having public campaign meetings … none of that has happened,” Mr. Seymour said. “I think if there’s a chance for independents, it’s now.”