Battle lines were drawn Monday as Nomination Day kicked off.
Premier Alden McLaughlin and leader-in-waiting Roy McTaggart rallied the Progressives candidates in George Town, as they made the rounds together, filing nominations at various constituencies across the capital.
Decked in their trademark red, incumbent MPs from the party, together with newly-minted candidate Frank Cornwall, piled into a tour bus at the Progressives’ Crewe Road headquarters shortly after 8:30am, embarking on the cross-district nomination drive.
After making stops along the way to formally file nominations in six George Town constituencies, the Progressives wrapped up their tour in the seventh and final constituency of Red Bay.
“I’m very optimistic about the chances of the Progressives-led administration, which currently runs the country, continuing into a third term,” McLaughlin told the Cayman Compass after filing his nomination papers at the Seafarers Hall.
“I think we fielded a good slate here in George Town and in the two seats in Cayman Brac and working along, as part of the alliance, with Mr. Austin (Harris) and Dwayne Seymour,” he added.
As for House Speaker McKeeva Bush, McLaughlin made it clear the West Bay West MP was not part of the current coalition in the making.
McLaughlin’s lone opponent in Red Bay is attorney Sammy Jackson.
Commenting on his challenger, the premier said he was ready for the contest.
“I have been a representative for George Town for 20-and-a-half years now and of this constituency for the last four. I believe my track record speaks for itself and my relationships with the people in my constituency speak for themselves and we shall see,” he said, adding, “let it never be said Cayman doesn’t offer a full opportunity to everyone who believes that they could and should represent a constituency to throw their hat into the ring”.
Flanked by constituents Loretta Ramoon and Dahlia Webb-Barrett, McLaughlin signed on the dotted line around 12:30pm, setting the stage for a showdown with Jackson.
Backed by nominators Sherry Ann Smith and attorney Phillip Ebanks, Jackson filed his documents an hour prior to McLaughlin’s arrival at the hall.
Asked how he felt handing in his nomination papers, Jackson quipped, “It’s too late now… no backing out”.
He said he was “very encouraged by the support”.
“I am going to do everything that I can, to ensure that I do this properly, to make sure that we run a clean and sensible campaign dealing with issues and not personalities. That’s certainly my aim; I hope the other side reciprocates that and may the best man win,” he told the Compass.
With McLaughlin capturing 56.64% of the votes in 2017, Jackson said, “obviously, it is a challenge” to face the premier, but he is ready.
“It’s something a newbie like myself would not ordinarily do, but I felt motivated by the fact that there was no one there to challenge him… I thought it would have been a travesty for the people of Red Bay to go with an unchallenged candidate in this election,” Jackson added.
Although he signed as an independent candidate, Jackson said he is working with “like-minded” individuals who will be campaigning on key issues like education and the cost of living.
Fellow independent candidate Johann Moxam, who filed nomination papers for George Town North, was also on hand as a show of support to Jackson.
McTaggart first to register in GTE
Finance Minister and incumbent George Town East MP Roy McTaggart became the first candidate to file nomination papers in the constituency around 9:20am Monday.
The minister, supported by his Progressives team, was nominated by his brother, William McTaggart, and Lorna Bush.
The process went smoothly at the Agape Family Worship Centre Hall.
Roy McTaggart, who will be named leader of the Progressives later this month, said he was pleased to once again seek re-election.
“I am feeling really happy and getting myself geared up now for the election and for the campaigning that will begin almost immediately,” he told the Compass.
Commenting on his upcoming leadership appointment, McTaggart said it was a weight on his shoulders, but he was not shying away.
“I realise just how much will be resting there on my shoulders, but I am firmly up to the task of this. I am truly honoured for [Alden McLaughlin] to have endorsed me as his successor within the Progressives party. I am confident the membership there are going to support it 100% and I am really looking forward to the new challenge,” he said.
McTaggart is facing election first-timer Emily DeCou, who filed her nomination papers just before lunchtime Monday.
She is one of four challengers taking on McTaggart on 14 April. The others are Richard Bernard, Christina Hislop Rowlandson and Frank McField.
DeCou, in a brief comment to the Compass Monday night, said she was happy to be part of the political process.
“I’m feeling so fantastic… feeling great, very honoured to have this opportunity. I’m really looking forward to the next six weeks leading up to election,” she said via an audio note.
Though she is a newcomer squaring off against a senior politician, DeCou says she’s up for the challenge.
“My expectations of this campaign, regardless, is that it will be a very worthy challenge and is one which I welcome,” she added.
Over in George Town North, newcomer Johann Moxam will be facing incumbent Joey Hew, while Kenrick Webster will be challenging David Wight for George Town West.
In Prospect, Austin Harris will have his hands full as Michael Myles and Sabrina Turner challenge him for the seat.
Bryan welcomes new challenger
For most of the day, it appeared George Town Central MP Kenneth Bryan would be unchallenged.
However, shortly before lunch, the Progressives’ tour bus rolled into the Elmslie Memorial United Church yard on Harbour Drive where political assistant to the premier, Frank Cornwall, disembarked to turn in his nomination papers for the seat.
He was nominated by Phyllis Moxam and Christine Burke-Richardson.
Bryan, who filed his nomination papers in his bid for re-election, said he is ready to start the campaign.
“I must say, this morning I had a little bit of jitters, but those are gone now and all my people are already… waiting for me to start the campaign and I feel confident that things are going to be successful. I worked really, really hard the last four years on behalf of the people of George Town Central and the Cayman Islands as a whole,” he said.
As for Cornwall’s entry into the race, Bryan welcomed the challenge.
“To be nominated is a very honourable thing. It’s a noble thing, so I wish him the best in the race. To serve the people is something very, very important; if he feels that he can offer the people something, I wish him well. I think I can offer better by way of proven hard work for four years; I didn’t leave my people. This is politics and democracy at work,” he said.
GEORGE TOWN CANDIDATES
George Town North
George Town West
George Town Central
George Town South
George Town East
Christina Hislop Rowlandson