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Candidates still have all to play for on eve of by-election

Three-horse race: Robert King, Lindsay Simmons and Sir John Swan are contesting the Smith’s North by-election (File photograph)

Voters in Smith’s North will go to the polls today to elect one of three candidates vying for a seat in the House of Assembly.

Opinions were varied when The Royal Gazette spoke to residents in the constituency, which has never been a stronghold for either of the two main political parties.

The by-election was called after the resignation in March of Michael Dunkley, of the One Bermuda Alliance.

Political newcomer Robert King has been tasked with retaining the seat for the OBA, and will be up against former Progressive Labour Party senator Lindsay Simmons.

In addition, Sir John Swan, a former premier, is running as an independent candidate.

Mr Dunkley wrested the seat from the Progressive Labour Party in 2012, the year in which the OBA secured its only election victory.

He held on to the constituency in 2017 but with a reduced majority, securing victory over the PLP’s Ernest Peets with a difference of only 43 votes.

Although Mr Dunkley ran out a comfortable winner against Dr Peets in the October 2020 election with 60 per cent of the vote, Smith’s North could be regarded as a marginal seat by both parties.

One resident told the Gazette on Monday that she would be voting for Ms Simmons, partly out of party loyalty but also because of the Government’s track record.

The woman, who runs a small business, said: “I don’t really know Lindsay Simmons or the OBA candidate, but I’ll be voting PLP.

“That’s because of party lines, but also because I’m pleased with the Government’s performance.

“I think that the Government has worked hard to help people, the less well-off, by containing the cost of living and reducing taxes.

“I feel sorry for young people coming back to the island not being able to buy a house, but the Government’s helping there too.

“Yes, we have problems, but then so does the rest of the world and it’s trickled down to Bermuda.

“Crime is a problem, but then it always has been and there’s only so much the Government can do to fix that.

“You can’t roll out everything perfectly all at once — there has to be a trajectory — and I believe we’re heading in the right direction.”

An OBA supporter said: “I know Robert [King]. He’s very smart, very dedicated.

“He’ll make an excellent MP.”

Not everyone who spoke to the Gazette offered strong views about the poll. Many claimed that they were “not interested” or would not have time to cast their vote.

A mother who opened her door clutching her month-old daughter said: “To be honest with you, I didn’t even know there was an election. I’ve been kind of busy.”

Sir John’s entry into the race appeared to have given voters food for thought.

One Paradise Lane resident said he had “huge respect” for Sir John, who was Premier between 1982 and 1994.

He added: “My concern is that he’ll split the OBA vote and let the PLP in.”

That was not a strong enough argument to dissuade one woman from backing Sir John.

She said: “We need to change the system and we need more independent MPs.

“OK, Sir John won’t have much influence as a single independent MP, but neither does the OBA right now. They only have six MPs. If they go down to five, what difference does that make?

“But if Sir John can win, that will hopefully encourage more people to run as independent MPs, and we’re going to be having a General Election in the next year, when everything can change.”

Other residents said that they were still not sure which way to cast their vote, and would be entering the voting booth “with an open mind”.

One Jennings Road resident summed up the mindset of the undecided.

He said: “For the last three elections it’s always been Dunkley, Dunkley, Dunkley — and that’s been great because Michael’s been an excellent MP. But we now have a new set of choices.

“While I respect Sir John and like his views, I think he’s too old to be running for Parliament — he should be enjoying his retirement.

“That leaves us with two candidates who we don’t know a lot about. Both could be really good, but I don’t know.

“The question is, do you vote for party or for the person? That’s the dilemma.

“I haven’t made up my own mind yet, but whatever happens on Wednesday, it’s going to be interesting.”

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