JLP's Portland push

Daryl and Ann-Marie Vaz take aim at all nine divisions in looming local government election

Voters waiting in line to vote in Portland Eastern in the September general election.
DARYL VAZ...my performance over the 13 years as Member of Parliament speaks volumes
ANN-MARIE VAZ...It is a clear indication that we are on course to make a clean sweep of all five divisions in the next local government election.

After comprehensive victories in the September 3 General Election, the husband and wife team of Daryl and Ann-Marie Vaz have now set their sights on leading their councillors to a clean sweep of all nine divisions in the Portland Municipal Corporation.

The two Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) representatives emerged with the most votes in all nine divisions in the general election, capturing two of the divisions now held by the People's National Party (PNP).

They have now started the hard work to replicate that in the local government election, widely expected by November when it is constitutionally due.

Ann-Marie Vaz, who also swept all five parish council divisions in Portland Eastern in the general election, is eager to continue that winning streak.

In a Jamaica Observer exclusive last week Mrs Vaz boasted about the enumeration tactics used by her team to ensure victory at the polls, which saw her winning the Port Antonio and Prospect divisions, two traditional PNP strongholds.

“This was arguably the hardest and toughest election for me yet, but I was up to the challenge,” she said.

“The by-election [in April 2019] was a lot easier than this one. In April last year I had the support of the entire JLP family. This time around I had to run a campaign on my own with a very strong supporting team.

“We were well organised, and the 'Action Team' is made of young people who are below the age of 23. Teamwork was the key, which led us to wrestle those two divisions (Prospect and Port Antonio) from the PNP,” said Mrs Vaz.

She added: “It is a clear indication that we are on course to make a clean sweep of all five divisions in the next local government election. My work in the Port Antonio Division set the stage for this success. The Port Antonio Division has always been a stronghold for the PNP, which has a sitting councillor for more than 34 years.”

The Portland Eastern Member of Parliament-elect's priority list includes providing Internet and free Wi-Fi service in Port Antonio and its environs, rehabilitating the roadway leading to the Rio Grande rafting area, providing tablets to students to assist with online classes made necessary because of COVID-19, improving the living conditions of under-privileged women, and making potable water available to several communities.

Port Antonio has been won by the PNP since 1986 with sitting Councillor Dexter Rowland winning every election since then. The Prospect Division, where the PNP's Wayne McKenzie is the sitting councillor, has also been a safe seat for that party.

But final numbers from the Electoral Office of Jamaica show Mrs Vaz winning by 22 votes in Port Antonio, 93 in Prospect, 905 in Fairy Hill, 745 in Manchioneal, and 289 in the Fellowship Division.

“My work, especially after that by-election, resonated well with the electorate, bearing in mind that I went into a seat which the JLP had lost in 2016 by 2,330 votes. My hard work paid off, and I won the September 3 election by 2,125, which is an excellent achievement, especially in a seat that was branded a safe seat for the PNP,” argued Mrs Vaz, who polled 8,360 votes to beat the PNP's Purcell Jackson who totalled 6,235 votes.

She had defeated the PNP's Damion Crawford in a hotly contested by-election last year with 9,989 votes to 9,670.

In the neighbouring Portland Western Mr Vaz defeated the PNP's Valerie Neita Robertson on September 3 by 2,442 votes.

Some pundits and political analysts have labelled the margin of defeat by Neita Robertson as embarrassing, but she has argued that there was widescale and brazen vote-buying in the election.

However, Mr Vaz told the Observer that his victory was expected as his work in the constituency positively impacted people's lives and he ran a very intense campaign.

“To poll that amount of votes and to assume that margin of victory requires a proper organisational structure,” Vaz told the Observer.

“My voter turnout in west Portland has always been among the highest in the country, and this election was no different. The average voter turnout nationally was 37 per cent, and my voter turnout was 45 per cent.

“It means that you know where your votes are, and if you are able to get your votes out on Election Day then you have the key to winning. In order to poll record-breaking numbers it requires a strong and organised team,” declared Mr Vaz, who has been given portfolio responsibility for energy, science, and technology in the Cabinet named by Holness last Friday.

He added: “My performance over the 13 years as Member of Parliament speaks volumes and that enables me to be victorious at the polls. I think that the Government's performance over the four and half years and the popularity of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, along with my organisational abilities and skills, is what accounts for this massive success.”

Mr Vaz said before the election his canvass showed that he would win by a margin of 2,000 to 3,000 votes.

In the end he polled 6,481 to Neita Robertson's 4,039, which represents the largest margin of victory for any candidate in Portland Western since 1944.

Neita Robertson polled the lowest number of votes by any candidate from the two major political parties in Portland Western since 1949.

In achieving the largest victory margin by any candidate in Portland Western since 1944Vaz also retained all four parish council divisions, Balcarres, Buff Bay, Hope Bay, and St Margaret's Bay.