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Brunson believes ‘disquiet is boiling’

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The former head of a child protection charity turned political hopeful has appealed to voters to consider the number of candidates standing against the Progressive Labour Party in this week's General Election.

Jon Brunson, who is to contest a Warwick seat for the One Bermuda Alliance, said the 50 candidates — 31 One Bermuda Alliance, 14 Free Democratic Movement and five independents — spoke volumes about the level of dissatisfaction with the PLP.

Mr Brunson added: “I think it is indicative of the disquiet that is boiling in the community.

“There are people who are looking for representation. To me, the upside of it all is that people are going to have choice.

“What we are seeing in this election is democracy in action.”

A total of 40 candidates ran against the ruling OBA in the last election in 2017.

Mr Brunson suggested the number of opposition candidates this time around was the largest the country had seen in a General Election.

He said: “If the ... PLP thinks that they are doing a great job, if the people want to criticise the OBA, I would ask them to think about what the opposition is to the Government. It's not 36 candidates.”

Mr Brunson, an MP for the former United Bermuda Party between 2003 and 2008, will take on the PLP's Ianthia Simmons-Wade in Warwick North East, Constituency 25.

He said he was definitely in it to win it, fighting a seat which was held by the OBA from 2012 until Curtis Dickinson, now the Minister of Finance, won a 2018 by-election.

The by-election was sparked when the OBA's Jeff Baron, a former national security minister, stepped down nine months after winning the seat — a scenario familiar to Mr Brunson.

Mr Brunson held Southampton West Central for five years and voters returned him to the House of Assembly for a second term in 2007 with an increased majority.

But he quit less than a year after the election and blamed work commitments.

Mr Brunson was the director of the Orbis Foundation Scholarship Programme, set up to create educational opportunities for disadvantaged Bermudians at the time and also travelled the world with the charity Habitat for Humanity to build homes for the disadvantaged.

Mr Brunson was approached by friend Debi Ray-Rivers about the need for a child sexual abuse prevention charity after he returned to Bermuda.

Their discussions led to the formation of Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, which has now trained thousands of people — more than 12 per cent of Bermuda's population by 2018 — in child sex abuse prevention and mounted successful campaigns for legal changes to better protect children from predators.

Mr Brunson said: “I had to make a decision whether to remain in politics or do something that I believe was more powerful and more deserving of my time to serve the community.”

He recognised that his decision to quit — even if it was to “make a difference here in a meaningful way” — may have been tough to swallow by people who voted for him.

But Mr Brunson said: “If the community now in retrospect evaluates the impact of my decision, they will see and understand why I did what I did.

Mr Brunson, who has stepped down as chairman of Scars, insisted he was now prepared to make a long-term commitment to the constituency.

He promised: “My decision to run as a candidate for the OBA is a five-year commitment, or until the next election.”

Mr Brunson said he agreed to re-enter the political arena after he was approached by Ben Smith and Scott Pearman, of the OBA. He added that when he represented Southampton West Central, he lived in the area.

Mr Brunson said: “They knew that I was a man of my word and that I was a resource they could draw on. I was them.”

He insisted the same conditions applied now as he lived “right in the heart of Warwick” on the boundaries of constituencies 25, 26, 27 and 28.

Mr Brunson said that, apart from constituency problems, he was concerned about the economy and the upheaval caused by the Covid-19.

He added he wanted to tackle racial inequity and create opportunities for the next generation.

Mr Brunson promised to promote legislation to mandate mentoring and internships in international business for young black Bermudians.

He said: “The fact of the matter is that Bermuda has a lot of challenges. This government, it has a deficit that has to be addressed and it can't be a one-trick pony where it borrows its way out of these issues.”

He added the OBA was the party of inclusion and would focus on job creation.

Mr Brunson said he would continue to push for the rights of the vulnerable, including victims of child sex abuse, seniors in need and families dealing with learning difficulties.

He added: “I'm not just representing the people that vote for me, I'm representing those that don't. I'm not afraid to do the work.”

Making a difference: Jon Brunson, former Scars chairman (Photograph provided)
Jon Brunson with OBA colleagues on Nomination Day (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published September 28, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated September 28, 2020 at 7:55 pm)

Brunson believes ‘disquiet is boiling’

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