Tomorrow is Nomination Day in Tobago, and it is expected that more than 24 candidates will file their nomination papers in the lead-up to the January 21 Tobago House of Assembly (THA) elections.
In just three weeks, the two leading contenders for the battle to govern Tobago's affairs for the next four years —the incumbent People's National Movement (PNM) deputy political leader Orville London and the Tobago Organisation of the People (TOP), led by Minority Leader Ashworth Jack—will know their fate.
The Sunday Express was unable to contact Hochoy Charles, of the Platform for Truth, to determine how many candidates he will be fielding for the election.
Charles was chief secretary of the THA under the National Alliance for Reconstruction (NAR) government.
Tomorrow, the returning officer will examine all nomination papers presented by the candidates and having found them to be valid, will accept their deposit of $2,000 and officially declare their candidacy for the electoral district, according to the Elections and Boundaries Commission's (EBC) website.
PNM incumbent London said last week, "All candidates are ready; we are going to be ramping our campaign of two public meetings per day from January 3.
Yesterday, it was learnt that both political parties were getting ready to roll out a massive marketing and advertising campaign, including the use of social media.
Reports also indicated some novel advertising gimmicks are being used, such as the contracting of a number of vehicles, draped in TOP colours and parked at strategic public places to ensure maximum visual impact.
Word on the ground in Tobago indicated as well that TOP candidates were given individual budgets upward of $80,000 to spend in their districts.
The Sunday Express was however unable to reach the TOP's leader to confirm this report.
The TOP party will field 12 candidates in its bid for control of the THA.
At present, the TOP controls three of the 12 seats in the THA: Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah; Goodwood/Belle Garden and Canaan/Bon Accord.
Outside of the current TOP members in the Assembly—all of whom have agreed to recontest—the new faces in the line-up for the upcoming poll will include:
• Fitzherbert Taylor
(Parlatuvier/L'anse Fourmi/ Charlotteville)
• Anslem Richards (Roxborough/Delaford)
• Pastor Chester Robinson Alleyne
• Sherry-Ann Rollocks-Hackett
• Theodil Mc-Pherson (Black Rock/Whim)
• Anthony Arnold (Scarborough/Calder Hall)
• Richard Alfred (Buccoo/Mt Pleasant)
• Certica Williams-Orr
• Gladstone Solomon (Bacolet/Mt St George)
THA's Chief Secretary London and incumbent Assemblyman for Scarborough/Calder Hall is one of five PNM incumbents who will be seeking to retain their seats in this election
London is again being challenged by attorney Anthony Arnold of the TOP, whom he defeated by a narrow margin in the last (2009) THA election.
The other incumbents include:
• Claudia Groome-Duke, Secretary of Health/Social Services, who will come up against the TOP's Theodil McPherson in her bid to retain the Black Rock/ Whim/ Spring Garden seat
• Tracey Davidson-Celestine, Secretary of Community Development/Culture and Assemblywoman for Parlatuvier/L'Anse Fourmi/Speyside, who is also again being challenged by the TOP's Fitzherbert Taylor, who lost to her by a slim margin in 2009
• Deputy Chief Secretary/ Secretary of Infrastructure and Public Utilities Hilton Sandy (Roxborough/Delaford), who will contend with a relative newcomer to active politics, Anslem Richards, of the TOP
• Secretary of Housing/ Settlements Godwin Adams (Plymouth/ Golden Lane), who is being challenged by Certica Williams-Orr (TOP).
The PNM will be fielding three political newcomers against TOP candidates who are also first-timers in two of the three districts. They are:
• Jomo Pitt (PNM) against Pastor Chester Robinson-Alleyne (TOP) for the Lambeau/Signal Hill district
• Pastor Handel Beckles (PNM), up against secondary school principal Sherry Anne Rollocks-Hackett (TOP)—Bethel/ Mt Irvine.
While in the Buccoo/Mt Pleasant district, regarded as a PNM traditional stronghold, the party is being represented by bank employee Ancil Dennis, who is making his debut in the political arena up against Richard Alfred of the TOP, a former assemblyman under the NAR.
Other PNM candidates include Joel Jack, who will contest the TOP's Gladstone Solomon, both newcomers, for the Bacolet/Mt St George seat, currently held by the TOP, where the incumbent Orville Jordan chose not to seek re-election.
Other first-timers for the PNM include
• Sheldon Cunningham against TOP leader/THA Minority Leader and incumbent Assemblyman Ashworth Jack for the Providence/Mason Hall/Moriah seat
• Councillor Huey Cadette, incumbent Assistant Secretary in the Division of Education/Youth Affairs/Sport, who comes up against incumbent TOP Assemblyman Rolly Quaccoo.
The PNM's Hayden Spencer takes on TOP Assemblyman Steve Jack for the Belle Garden/ Goodwood seat.