Election night as it happened

Miller, McLean toppled in night of shocks

Outgoing Premier Alden McLaughlin and Progressives leader Roy McTaggart appeared confident after the election result. Photo: Tanoes Ramsay
  • The 19 MPs are: Moses Kirkconnell (CBLC), Chris Saunders (BTW), Johany Ebanks (NS), Katherine Ebanks-Wilks (WBC), Juliana O’Connor-Connolly (CBE), Heather Bodden (Sav), Joey Hew (GTN), Kenny Bryan (GTC), Dwayne Seymour (BTE) Wayne Panton (Newlands), Isaac Rankine (East End), Bernie Bush (WBN), David Wight (GTW), Alden McLaughlin (Red Bay), Roy McTaggart (GTE), McKeeva Bush (WBW), Sabrina Turner (Prospect), André Ebanks (West Bay South), Barbara Conolly (George Town South).

Roy McTaggart looks set to be the next premier of the Cayman Islands with the Progressives in pole position to lead a coalition government.

There were jubilant scenes at the party headquarters as the final results came in just after 11pm on Wednesday.

With all seven sitting party members as well as alliance partner Dwayne Seymour holding their seats, McTaggart will have the best shot of forming a government.

He said he was “overjoyed” with the result and confident of forming a coalition government.

“All of the incumbent Progressives candidates were elected quite resoundingly,” he said.

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“The country were clearly happy with the Progressives and the government we have led.”

He acknowledged there had been some tension throughout the night with some seismic shocks elsewhere in Grand Cayman.

Veteran legislators Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean were toppled in North Side and East End, with Johany Ebanks and Isaac Rankine, respectively, taking their seats in the new parliament.

McKeeva Bush narrowly retained his seat in West Bay, admitting it was a “cliffhanger” after his 27-vote win over Mario Ebanks.

His long-time running mate, Capt. Eugene Ebanks, was soundly beaten, however, with Katherine Ebanks-Wilks taking the West Bay Central seat by 539 to 392 votes.

McTaggart said he would be reaching out to some of the independents tonight as he seeks to form a government.

“We are starting with a position of strength,” he said, targeting a coalition of 12-14 seats.

André Ebanks, Isaac Rankine, Heather Bodden and Johany Ebanks – all of whom were successful tonight – have been previously named as possible partners for the Progressives.

Asked about that newly elected trio, McTaggart said, “I would anticipate several of those would be a part of helping us form the government.”

He said the celebrations would go on tonight, with the serious business of putting together a government likely to begin tomorrow.

11pm update: Progressives hold every seat as Conolly win confirmed

Barbara Conolly has won a nail-biter against Alric Lindsay in George Town South, which means the Progressives have retained all seven seats for their core party members.

In keeping his Bodden Town East seat, Dwayne Seymour, an independent who aligns with the Progressives, gives the alliance eight members looking to form the government.

They need two more to get across the line.

Barbara Conolly after her win was called in George Town South. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

They lost three of their alliance partners tonight but there are a number of other independents who could be in the frame to join them.

Winning those potentially tricky races for Joey Hew, David Wight and Barbara Conolly, not to mention Alden McLaughlin, whose race was close for a while in Red Bay, has put them in the box seat to form a government.

Three of the independents who were also victorious – André Ebanks, Heather Bodden and Isaac Rankine – were personally named by McLaughlin in a rally last night as people he believed could work with the party.

10:40pm: McTaggart: People are happy with their government

A couple of early comments from some of the victors tonight.

Roy McTaggart appeared confident about the national result after his win in George Town East as well as key wins for David Wight, Joey Hew and Alden McLaughlin.

Barbara Conolly also now holds a marginal lead in a tight race with Alric Lindsay in George Town South.

“What we are seeing is people seem to be happy with the government,” McTaggart told the Compass.

“There are a few upsets and some that are too close to call. We will have to wait a little longer to see how the dust settles.”

Speaking outside of his West Bay West constituency, draped in a Caymanian flag, McKeeva Bush admitted he had faced a close call.

“It was a cliffhanger; I have never faced anything like this,” he said, claiming his rival Mario Ebanks had outspent him in the district.

Bush said it had been a night of major changes and said he was ready to serve in whatever role he was needed.

Dwayne Seymour thanked his supporters and thanked God for his victory and vowed to be a candidate for all in Bodden Town East.

Meanwhile, there were wild celebrations for the changing of the guard in North Side where Johany Ebanks upset Ezzard Miller earlier tonight.

Wild celebrations for Johany Ebanks after his win in North Side.

10:30pm update: Andre Ebanks streaks ahead in West Bay South

Andre Ebanks has 72% of the vote with the bulk of the ballots counted in West Bay South, so he looks a near certainty for that seat.

That leaves George Town South with Alric Lindsay versus Barbara Conolly as the last one to call.

10:20pm update: Roy McTaggart, McKeeva Bush victorious

Progressives leader Roy McTaggart has been declared the winner in George Town East – we are still waiting for final numbers there.

McKeeva Bush has eked out a victory in West Bay, prevailing by 27 votes. The Elections Office has called that race for the former speaker but it looks like his assault conviction impacted his popularity in the district and took a chunk out of his lead. The final figures were 458-431.

Sabrina Turner has taken Prospect with 353 votes, Michael Myles was second with 307 and Austin Harris trailed with 288.

10:10pm update: McKeeva behind in West Bay

McKeeva Bush is trailing Mario Ebanks in West Bay West. The former premier has held this seat for more than 30 years but is facing a possible defeat tonight with Ebanks leading by 10 votes with about half the ballots counted.

10pm update: McLaughlin celebrates keeping Red Bay seat 

Alden McLaughlin looks to have held on to his seat in Red Bay, with huge celebrations at Progressives headquarters as they appear to think they have got this. We haven’t heard official word from the Election’s Office on that but it seems word has come out at the polling station because McLaughlin is being mobbed by jubilant supporters at Progressives HQ.

Meanwhile East End has been called for Isaac Rankine who has taken that seat from Arden McLean by 348 votes to 304.

Rankine had been named by the Progressives as someone they thought they could work with, so that seat could be a significant reverse tonight.

David Wight has held his seat in George Town South.

9:45pm update: Wayne Panton wins in Newlands

Wayne Panton has won in Newlands by a comfortable margin. He took 56% of the vote there with Al Suckoo second with 29%. That’s a big victory for Panton, who could be a contender for premier when the negotiations begin in earnest later tonight.

No doubt some of these candidates are already getting on the phone to shore up their alliances. As it stands, this election could still go any way.

Government will feel good about key holds for Joey Hew and likely for David Wight, but Barbara Conolly and Austin Harris are behind and there may need to be new alliances struck if they are to hold onto power.

9:35 update: Bryan wins in landslide

Kenny Bryan has trounced Frank Cornwall to retain his seat in George Town Central, with 87% of the vote. That looks to be the biggest victory of the night. Bryan took 851 votes to 126 for Cornwall.

Bryan is leading a victory parade through the streets of George Town.

He told the Compass, “I feel great. The best place in the world to be is George Town Central with my people and my family.”

Asked about his plans, he said, “I want to form a government with good people. We have a lot of things to do.. .let’s celebrate for a little bit and then form a government like Cayman has never seen before. That’s the plan.”

Bryan leads the celebrations in George Town Central

Health Minister Dwayne Seymour has retained his seat in Bodden Town East. The result was just declared outside the polling station to raucous applause and honking of horns.

9:30pm update: McLaughlin pulls away in Red Bay, Hew looks strong in GT North

Premier Alden McLaughlin, who looks to be in a tougher fight than he might have imagined in Red Bay, will be breathing a sigh of relief as the count came in for the second batch of ballots.

The margin was just five votes earlier today, but McLaughlin now has a 60-vote lead over Sammy Jackson. In more good news for the Progressives, Joey Hew looks to have an unassailable lead over Johann Moxam in George Town North, which was expected to be a very close fight.

Meanwhile Heather Bodden has won in Savannah.

9:15pm update: Miller falls in North Side

It looks like we can call a couple of major upsets tonight with long-time North Side MP Ezzard Miller defeated by Jay Ebanks, who took 55% of the vote. Captain Eugene Ebanks is another significant scalp. He has lost to Katherine Ebanks-Wilks in West Bay Central.

Meanwhile, David Wight is well ahead of his three challengers in George Town West which looks like a hold for the Progressives, but Barbara Conolly is behind against Alric Lindsay in George Town South.

McKeeva Bush is in his closest race for some time but looks likely to edge out a victory – he has a 30-vote lead over Mario Ebanks. Juliana O’Connor-Connolly has won in the Brac with 70% of the vote.

9pm update: No clear picture on likely government

There are just four races where we have yet to hear any results: McKeeva Bush’s battle with Mario Ebanks, and two races in George Town where David Wight and Barbara Conolly are defending seats for the Progressives.

The two definite winners so far are Chris Saunders in Bodden Town West, who has taken nearly 80% of the vote, and Moses Kirkconnell, who won by a wide margin in the Cayman Brac West and Little Cayman constituency.

These are the 16 leaders in the districts that have some of the results reported so far:

Dwayne Seymour

Moses Kirkconnell (won)

Juliana O’Connor-Connolly

Roy McTaggart

Joey Hew

Alden McLaughlin (ahead by five votes)

Chris Saunders

Isaac Rankine (two-vote margin)

Kenny Bryan

Wayne Panton

Katherine Ebanks-Wilks

Bernie Bush

André Ebanks

Heather Bodden

Johany Ebanks

Sabrina Turner

8:50pm update: McLean behind in East End

There are some seriously tight races around the country tonight.

East End could be set for an upset with Isaac Rankine holding a two-vote lead over Arden McLean after the first batch of ballots were counted.

Sabrina Turner leads in Prospect with 134 votes. Michael Myles has 115 and incumbent Austin Harris has 114.

Heather Bodden leads Malcolm Eden in Savannah. She has 170 votes to his 125 with just eight for Jeanna Williams.

It’s almost over in Bodden Town East where Dwayne Seymour has 60% of the vote with more than two-thirds of the ballots counted.

8:40pm update: Moses Kirkconnell re-elected

There could be some major shocks in Grand Cayman tonight but not on the Sister Islands. Moses Kirkconnell has been re-elected in his Cayman Brac and Little Cayman constituency, taking 315 of 370 votes against challenger Maxine McCoy-Moore.

He told the Compass just now he was happy with the result and hopeful of forming part of the next government.

North Side is looking like a major upset in the making with Ezzard Miller trailing Johany Ebanks by a significant margin. It’s a four-horse race there and Ebanks has 55% of the early vote to Miller’s 33%.

Bernie Bush, meanwhile, has a 12-point cushion over Rolston Anglin.

8:30pm update: McLaughlin in tight race with Sammy Jackson

Outgoing Premier Alden McLaughlin is facing a serious fight in Red Bay tonight if the first batch of vote counts is anything to go by.

McLaughlin holds just a five vote lead over Sammy Jackson, with 365 votes counted.

If Jackson can close that gap, that would be a huge loss for the Progressives and an indication that we might see an independent-led government tonight.

Kenny Bryan, meanwhile, is racing away in George Town Central where he has 303 votes to 39 for Frank Cornwall.

8:20pm update: McTaggart takes healthy lead, Panton ahead in Newlands

Two of the Progressives front benchers, leader Roy McTaggart and Education Minister Juliana O’Connor Connolly look almost certain to be re-elected.

McTaggart took just under 67% in the first batch of ballots announced in George Town East, where there are five candidates contesting the seat. His closest contender is Emily DeCou at 22%.

Meanwhile, with around half the votes counted in her Brac constituency, O’Connor-Connolly has 72% of the vote.

And Wayne Panton, touted as a potential premier if the independents prevail, surged to an early lead in Newlands. He has 55% of the vote so far, compared with 29% for his closest rival Alva Suckoo.

8pm update: Seymour, Hew, Ebanks-Wilks take early leads

The first counts are starting to be fed back to election headquarters and Health Minister Dwayne Seymour has an early lead over Osbourne Bodden in Bodden Town East.

Joey Hew also has a slight advantage over Johann Moxam in George Town North.

Those numbers are very preliminary and based on the first batch of ballots counted.

Seymour took 61.78% of those first votes in his district.

It is much closer in George Town North, where Joey Hew has a 25-vote lead over Moxam out of the first batch of ballots counted.

Look out for a potential change in West Bay Central where long-time incumbent Captain Eugene Ebanks is trailing independent Katherine Ebanks-Wilks by some margin. The challenger has more than 63% of the first 258 ballots counted.

7:50pm update: Sister Islands results expected soon

The counts are under way at polling stations around the islands.

Candidates and two agents are allowed inside each district polling station to witness the process. Results will be fed back to election headquarters at the Government Administration Building and we will announce them as they come in. We are expecting the Sister Islands, North Side and East End to be the first results announced tonight.

Cayman Brac East, where Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Conolly faces independent Elvis McKeever, whose ‘no weed, no vote’ platform has attracted attention, is the smallest constituency with just 478 voters, so that should be the first one called – at least in theory.

We won’t hear the larger George Town and West Bay constituencies till much later in the evening. Based on what happened in 2017 – the first time for the single-member constituency system – we can expect to see all 19 constituencies called by around midnight.

That could change, of course, if there are particularly close races and recounts required.

7pm update: More voters, lower turnout

As Cayman’s polling stations closed at 6pm, 17,387 people had cast their votes. While this number is higher than in the 2017 election when 15,867 electors voted, turnout was slightly lower at 73.7% compared to the 74.8% recorded four years ago.

This is because since the last election, the total number of eligible voters has increased by 2,382, to 23,594.

But like in the last election, voters turned out in droves in the eastern districts. Both in East End and North Side more than 86% of eligible voters participated.

Turnout was much lower in Cayman Brac West & Little Cayman (63.8%), George Town East (69.3%) and West Bay West (69.72%).

Compared to four years ago, more people voted in West Bay Central, where Katherine Ebanks-Wilks is facing incumbent Capt. Eugene Ebanks; in North Side and East End; and in three districts where independents are taking on Progressives’ candidates and former government members: Red Bay, George Town North and George Town West.

Slightly more voters also turned out to decide between former education minister Rolston Anglin and Bernie Bush in West Bay North.

Turnout stats from the Election’s Office.

6.45pm update: Panton hoping for chance to serve

Wayne Panton, one of the prime contenders for leadership if the independents prevail, said he was happy the polls were now closed and was ready for the “nerve-racking” process of the count.

The former environment minister, who is in a four-way race for the Newlands seat currently held by Al Suckoo, thanked his team for their efforts and said he was looking forward to seeing what the country has decided as the night progresses.

He feels his ‘community creates country’ team, comprising himself, Osbourne Bodden and Heather Bodden, can be “reasonably optimistic” of success. And he believes they can be part of the next government.

“We are very much looking forward to being part of the winning slate and being able to serve our country and our communities in the ways that we have promised our constituents and to be able to deliver and make a big difference in their lives.”

6.30pm update: Saunders hopes for ‘sea of change’

Chris Saunders says he is “cautiously optimistic” both about his own chances and that government will be defeated.

Speaking to the Compass just after the polls closed, he said he was happy with the turnout and would be in touch with some of the other independent candidates as the night progresses.

The Bodden Town West legislator, who faces a challenge from Vincent Frederick, has been highlighted – along with Newlands candidate Wayne Panton – as one of the likeliest leaders of a coalition of independents if the Progressives and their partners are toppled.

He said he was hoping for a “sea of change” across the country this evening.

Saunders said there were already agreements in place among several independents and it was now just a matter of watching the results come in.

“It is just a case of wait and see. It is a game of numbers,” he said.

Saunders is aligned with numerous candidates including Johann Moxam, Sammy Jackson, Alric Lindsay and Arden McLean. He has also been in talks with Kenneth Bryan and Wayne Panton and is backing multiple other independent candidates.

He said he believed the country was ready for change.

6:15pm update: McTaggart upbeat

Roy McTaggart, leader of the Progressives, said he was positive and upbeat about the chances of a victory.

Speaking from the party headquarters, he said there was a sense of relief that polling day was at an end and the count was ready to begin.

“We remain very optimistic,” he said. “Throughout this campaign we have seen momentum building in our favour.”

6pm update: Premier confident as polls close

Premier Alden McLaughlin expressed confidence that the Progressives-led alliance were in poll position to form the next government as the polls closed at 6pm.

Alden McLaughlin and his wife Kim voting in Prospect earlier today.

Speaking for the last time as leader of the country, McLaughlin told the Cayman Compass he was proud of his record, but pleased to “hand over the reins to someone else”.

He expressed confidence that person would be his successor as Progressives leader – Roy McTaggart.

McLaughlin added, “All the indications I have are that the Progressives will lead the next administration with three or four independents.”

He said he was very confident about all the party incumbents, and alliance partner Dwayne Seymour in particular.

“If am correct about that, negotiations will be quite a lot easier,” he added.

With no exit polls or any public polling data in Cayman it is difficult to determine how the vote is going to go until all the ballots are counted.

The final numbers are not yet available but with an hour to go before the polls closed, 71% of the electorate had already voted – on course to match the figure for the last election, just under 75%.

McLaughlin said he hoped negotiations to form a government would be swift and said he was anxious to avoid the “absolute nightmare” that occurred in 2017 when that exercise took almost a week.

In a final campaign rally last night, he named Heather Bodden, Isaac Rankine and André  Ebanks among some of the independents he believed could work with the alliance. However, he said Wednesday, there was no formal agreement with those candidates.

“I think a lot of the independents are still waiting to see how it turns out before they step over the line,” he added.

1pm update: Elections Office fields complaints

Throughout the day elections staff handled numerous complaints, largely about candidates allegedly straying outside of the rules that prevent ‘campaigning’ while the polls are open.

Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell said, as in previous elections, his officers had been receiving complaints of candidates and their agents spending too much time at polling stations.

Under Section 56 of the Elections Law, “no candidate and his agent, or two agents of the same candidate, shall be in the same polling station at the same time for more than fifteen consecutive minutes”.

Howell said the Elections Office command centre staff was logging any complaints about candidates and their agents staying longer than 15 minutes together at stations.

“The police command centre is right next door to us, and we have a number of investigators assigned to us today and they’re actively looking at anything that comes in. But at this point, what we’re having is the normal [activity] of candidates jostling for an advantage and speaking out if they think someone is… in breach of the regulations,” he said.

Howell said although a candidate and agent are restricted to spending a maximum of 15 minutes together inside a polling station, candidates are allowed to stay as long as they like outside the polling stations’ 300-feet exclusion zone.

However, any election campaigning by candidates on polling day is prohibited.

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