Wed | Jan 23, 2019

Time for business - North West St Andrew candidates to be nominated today

Published:Monday | February 12, 2018 | 12:00 AM

An intriguing battle should be launched today when the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) Dr Nigel Clarke and the People's National Party's (PNP) Keisha Hayle are nominated to contest the March 5 by-election in the St Andrew North West constituency.

Clarke, the hard-nosed business leader, should start as favourite to win in a seat that the JLP first won in 1980. But he faces an opponent who does not know the meaning of the word impossible, despite being a trained educator.

Hayle faced an impossible task in 2011 when she took over as principal of a school in need of critical attention and facing closure - Padmore Primary in West Rural St Andrew. Her fighting sprit was not going to allow her to give up, and the school, which had a little more than 30 students then, now has more than 300 and serves as a model for many others across the island.

"Don't doubt me before you try me. I am tested and I am proven," Hayle declared last Thursday as she prepared for the nomination.

"I have to stand in the ring because when I walk through this constituency, all I see is suffering - 29 years of suffering," she added.

But Hayle may have trouble defeating Clarke, who is known as a numbers cruncher. He will know that the man he is replacing, Derrick Smith, won in 2016 with a 2,400-plus margin, and that provides a cushion going into the race.

Today, both parties are expected to come out in force for the nomination, with PNP President Dr Peter Phillips and campaign manager Paul Buchanan leading the team behind Hayle.

"We are expecting people to come from near and far to endorse my candidacy on Nomination Day," Hayle told The Gleaner last Thursday.

JLP Leader Prime Minister Andrew Holness is the man calling the shots for Clarke with General Secretary Dr Horace Chang marshalling the troops. Labourites are expected to flood the streets in their green for the nomination activities.