Two-way tussle for chairmanship of the OBA
Two former One Bermuda Alliance election candidates will go head-to-head to claim the party’s top behind-the-scenes post.
Justin Mathias and Catherine Kempe put their names forward for the chairman’s role before the deadline for nominations last Friday.
An e-mail to OBA members said: “Catherine Kempe most recently ran for the OBA in Constituency 14 in the recent General Election and has been in the post of deputy chair since August 2020 and formerly was party secretary.
“She is passionate about many issues including her family, healthcare and advancing women in the leadership of Bermuda.
“Over the years Justin Mathias has served as the Future Bermuda Alliance chair, Opposition senator, deputy chair and a short stint as party chair in 2018.
“Justin is passionate about the future of our country, with an emphasis on the inclusion of young persons and women in our political system.”
Simone Barton was the OBA chairwoman from October 2018, although Trevor Moniz, a Smith’s MP for 27 years, took over the job in an acting capacity in the run-up to the October 1 General Election.
Mr Mathias, who lost to the PLP’s Curtis Dickinson in a Warwick North East by-election in 2018, said that people who knew him well knew his “commitment” to the OBA and to Bermuda.
He added: “For the last two years we have allowed others to take control and ruin the ambitions and mature growth of this young political party.
“It is high time to put ego and narcissism aside and make way for fresh and meaningful change to our party.
“I was born and raised in this country and Bermuda’s issues are my own and vice versa.
“While I wish Catherine the best in her campaign I believe there is only one person in this election who is ready to start the job on day one and take the party into the direction it needs to go.”
The OBA won six seats in the 2020 General Election, compared to 30 for the PLP.
It was six constituencies fewer than the 12 captured in 2017, which fell to 11 after the Warwick by-election the following year.
Mr Mathias said: “It is clear that Bermuda needs a more meaningful option to vote for in our democracy and I will be tasked with the job of creating it.
“The last two election results have made the people and ultimately our supporters’ wishes very clear that we must be reflective of the community in which we wish to serve.
“I will use all of my power and time to find representatives and build an organisation that is reflective of the goodness and dedication to service that this country deserves.
“I have the internal and external support, structure and team that is ready to help me rebuild and unify the party.”
Ms Kempe said: “The One Bermuda Alliance needs to be a strong opposition to the people of Bermuda and I am running for party chair to lead my team to ensure that it happens.
“My team has a proven track record of getting things accomplished within the party, the community and our jobs and we have a strategic plan in place to continue to build the party back to what it was.
“We hold the principles of the party at our core, that being responsibility, integrity, transparency, fairness, inclusiveness and service.
“As a team, we know what needs to be done and have the plan in place to ensure that it happens.
“When you vote for me for party chair, you are also voting for the strong team that is backing me – at the executive level, at the candidate level and at the volunteer level."
Ms Kempe – who failed to oust Wayne Caines, of the Progressive Labour Party, from his Devonshire North West seat in the General Election earlier this month – added that her team included Victoria Cunningham and Michael Cann as deputy chairpersons.
Ms Cunningham said that “the combination of our experience and commitment to the party will drive the change needed to move the OBA forward”.
She added: “Catherine approached me to run with her as a deputy chair with a strong plan and she has my full support as the nominee for the OBA party chair position as her passion and dedication have clearly been evident over the past few years.”
Ms Cunningham said that the trio had developed “a number of strategies aimed at strengthening the party and building support for the next election”.
She added: “We know the OBA and we know what needs to be done.
“I firmly believe we bring a capable and diverse team to this party election and we are ready to dig deep and get the job done with the integrity and commitment needed to give Bermuda the Opposition, and ultimately the Government, we all deserve.”
Mr Cann said that he wanted “to help rebuild the OBA into a forward thinking viable option for Bermudians”.
He added that he supported Ms Kempe “because she has an unwavering passion for the betterment of Bermuda”.
Mr Cann said: “I fully endorse Catherine’s vision for the party. As a young person from humble beginnings, her vision resonates with me on a personal level.”
Only paid-up members of the OBA can vote in the November 3 contest.