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Landslide by-election win for OBA leader Cannonier

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Craig Cannonier romped to a landslide victory in yesterday's Devonshire South Central by-election — the first electoral contest for his One Bermuda Alliance party.

Just 608 voters made it to the ballot box at the Horticultural Hall in the Botanical Gardens. Mr Cannonier was endorsed by 504 of them. The ruling party's Anthony Richardson managed to garner just 75 votes and independent candidate, David Sullivan, captured 29 votes. Both had been hoping that the voters of the “UBP” stronghold would send a message demanding a change in the way politics is conducted in this country.

Mr Cannonier, who was elected leader of the OBA three months ago, needed to win a seat in the House of Assembly in order to be the Leader of the Official Opposition. The election had been made necessary by the resignation of John Barritt who wanted to make room in the House for a leader selected from non-MPs.

Surrounded by family and friends and with Mr Barritt by his side, a beaming Mr Cannonier said after the vote had been tallied: “This has truly been a blessing and an inspiration. I've learned a lot from the constituency of # 12 and I'm looking forward to representing them very well.”

He said his team had taken no one in the district for granted. “I have always believed the doorstep was going to be key to this election and I am very proud for the One Bermuda Alliance. This is our first election victory so the One Bermuda Alliance has a lot to be proud of.”

Mr Cannonier thanked his family, who he said had seen him more often on television and in the newspapers than in real life. It was important that we took no one for granted.”

Devonshire South Central has long been a stronghold of the now defunct United Bermuda Party.

And he congratulated his opponents saying that it had been “wonderful getting out and getting to to know them.”

Mr Richardson was all smiles as he announced he was in politics for the long haul. The former Accountant General called the by-election “an initial step” and said he now had “a tremendous desire to move forward”.

Mr Richardson said: “Even though I did not win the most votes, I made that initial step and I will continue to take the other steps. I've jumped in and I'm now in for the swim.

“I enjoyed the opportunity to run as a PLP candidate and knock on doors to hear people express their opinions and help come up with solutions.”

Mr Richardson spoke to the media outside Horticultural Hall with Premier Paula Cox and his family by his side.

But he remained tight-lipped when he was asked about a possible move to the Senate as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Richardson would only say: “Any opportunity to serve in the Senate comes at the discretion of the Premier … It's entirely up to the Premier.”

Ms Cox said Mr Richardson had “put politics into the heart of the community” and praised him for being “a young man going places”. She added that he “typifies the time of candidate” the PLP wanted to stand in the general election.

Ms Cox added that the results of the Devonshire South Central by-election showed that the general election would be “a two-horse race”.

Mr Sullivan, a former United Bermuda Party deputy chairman, said he was glad he had stood as an Independent candidate in what would have otherwise been “a very dull by-election”. He said: “I feel great, I'm fine, I'm in great spirits.

“It's been a great day and a wonderful experience for me. It was an incredible turnout and having an Independent candidate helped spark the interest in politics in this country.

“I've provided food for thought. I hope other Independents will step forward.”

Mr Sullivan said: “There's always another day,” and said he would “most definitely” consider running as an Independent candidate again.

Mr Cannonier walked out of Horticultural Hall as the new Devonshire South Central MP to a huge round of applause.

All three candidates and their supporters mulled around outside for about 15 minutes and Attorney General Michael Scott could be overheard telling a tired-looking Ms Cox to “go home and get some sleep”.

Mr Richardson was the last candidate to leave the scene at about 10pm as two police officers remained on guard on the door of the polling station.

The PLP issued a statement saying the results proved that the OBA is nothing but “yesterday's UBP” but not before the obligatory words of congratulations to the victor and praise for Bermuda's democracy.

The statement said: “The Progressive Labour Party congratulates OBA Leader Craig Cannonier on his victory in the Constituency # 12 by-election. His victory over our own Anthony Richardson, and over the Independent David Sullivan, shows that democracy is alive and well in Bermuda.”

But the party then went on to say that, while Mr Cannonier had underperformed John Barritt's results in 2003 and 2007, the results were “remarkably similar to recent general elections contested between the UBP and the PLP.”

The PLP also claimed that its support remains “solid” and continued: “We congratulate Anthony Richardson for running a solid race in a safe UBP constituency. He worked hard in the constituency and made a case that even many opposition loyalists agreed with: that he is more qualified and more experienced than Craig Cannonier.”

In percentage terms, Mr Cannonier garnered 82.89 percent of the vote while Mr Richardson was handed 12.34 percent and Mr Sullivan, 4.77 percent. A total of 1,035 residents were registered to vote in the poll. But just under 60 percent participated. At the 2007 General Election 79.18 percent of the 1,071 registered voters took part.

Mr Barritt said he had been certain that about 233 people would not be taking part in the vote — a combination of students, travellers, many who hadn't voted for a long time and had moved away but were still on the register, as well as people in institutions who did not vote. “That brought it down to 800 base and for 800. And out of 800 to have 608 vote today, it's a pretty good show.”

Craig Cannonier celebrates victory in the Devonshire South Central by-election
PLP candidate Anthony Richardson receives the support of Premier Paula Cox.
Independent candidate David Sullivan.
OBA leader Craig Cannonier hugs a voter as he waited for the people to cast their votes in the Devonshire South Central by-election

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Published November 02, 2011 at 7:00 am (Updated November 01, 2011 at 6:21 pm)

Landslide by-election win for OBA leader Cannonier

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