There’s a truism in political circles that goes, “Before voters ever choose their candidates – candidates have already chosen their voters.” That’s certainly what happened yesterday – Nomination Day – particularly with the Progressives.
As the minutes and hours ticked by Wednesday, and the nomination deadline of 3 p.m. approached, the biggest mystery loomed larger and larger: “Where’s Alden?”
Throughout Nomination Day, Compass journalists fanned out across Grand Cayman to keep tabs on which candidates were going to run, and where.
In some instances, we already knew: Cayman Democratic Party patriarch McKeeva Bush had announced early he would run in West Bay West, and he did. Independent candidate Kenneth Bryan had staked out George Town Central months ago. Incumbents Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean were going to seek reelection in North Side and East End, respectively. No surprises there.
The candidates’ choices told us a lot about, at minimum, where the candidates feel their campaign themes would resonate the loudest. The CDP concentrated its power in West Bay, as well as select districts in George Town and Bodden Town. Independents tended to run where they live, have businesses, grew up or have family. A candidate who announced his or her intention early sent the message, “I am strong. This is my turf. Anyone who wants to win here will have to go through me first.”
On the other hand, the Progressives’ “wait-and-see” strategy in George Town, of holding off until the last moment before going public with their decisions, sent a different message – not of weakness, per se, but of tactical calculation.
Which brings us back to Premier Alden McLaughlin. One would think that Premier McLaughlin, as leader of the country as well as the Progressives party, should (like his rival CDP counterpart Mr. Bush) have his first choice of district and, as a political heavyweight, be able to dictate the decisions by potential opponents. In other words, as a “big dog,” the premier should have the “little pups” scrambling to get out of his way.
But that is not how Premier McLaughlin chose to play his hand. For weeks, the prevailing assumption had been that the premier would run in either George Town Central (setting up a showdown with his former political aide Mr. Bryan) or in Prospect, where he lives and is registered to vote.
With Mr. McLaughlin going on “radio silence” with the Compass (and we presume other media) and keeping his cards close to his vest, we shifted our own strategy to “zone coverage,” stationing one reporter at the George Town Central nomination office at the Town Hall and one reporter at the Moravian Church Hall in Prospect.
The premier nearly managed to split our defensive scheme, but timely tips revealed to us that Premier McLaughlin was placing his bets on the district of Red Bay.
One of our journalists rushed over to the nomination office at Seafarers Hall to interview our wily premier and snapped the photograph that appeared on the front page of Thursday’s Cayman Compass.
Premier McLaughlin faces CDP candidate Denniston Tibbetts (who is the brother of the premier’s mentor Kurt Tibbetts) and independent Frank McField. Meanwhile, in George Town Central, Mr. Bryan’s opponent will not be Premier McLaughlin after all, but Finance Minister Marco Archer, who promises to be a formidable foe indeed.
Thanks to the premier’s selection, the Red Bay area (where Shamrock Road splits from the East-West Arterial) has and will receive an intensity of attention it has not received since Durty Reid’s, the popular watering hole known for its “warm beer, lousy food and surly help,” was demolished in the name of eminent domain.
For the next two months until the May 24 elections, Red Bay, which is home to aromatic jerk chicken stands, the Cayman Islands Brewery and The Prospect Playhouse, is now the site of another kind of entertainment – grand political theater.