The voters go to the polls today to decide who will replace Dr. Ewart Brown as the MP for Constituency 26, Warwick South Central.

The by-election has added spice as the first ever contested by Bermuda’s newest political party the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.

It’s also being seen as a referendum on the viability of the UBP as Bermuda’s main opposition party.

We talked to the three candidates about what’s at stake today.

 

Marc BeanMarc Bean: Stunned by pal’s death

The death of his close friend and business partner has put politics in perspective for Marc Bean.

But the PLP candidate says he hopes to uphold the values of his close friend Kirk Simons if he is elected to the House tonight.

The former Senator and President of Somerset Eagles sports club said Mr. Simons, who had represented the club at cricket and football, was a community leader.

He said his friend, who was killed in a road accident in the early hours of Saturday, would be in his mind when he went to the polls today.

“Politics is about serving people and doing what is right. Those same principles should be applied in other areas within our community.

“When I think of someone who has exemplified those values within our community I think of Kirk.

“His greatest impact was the example that he left for young men in the community – knowing what it means to be a responsible man, a good father, a good son and neighbour.”

He said Mr. Simons, also his business partner in an airline project he is working on, had been an inspiration in his life and career.

“This does put a lot of things in perspective,” he said.

But the 36-year-old believes his friend would want him to stay focused and take a step towards ‘fulfilling my destiny’.

Mr. Bean said his first focus as an MP, if elected, would be local. He said his job would be to serve the community of Constituency 26 first and foremost.

“I’m not trying to sell myself to the voters, they are intelligent enough, they have lived long enough. I don’t have to get them to buy anything. Voting is a private thing.

“What I have said is that you can rest assured that if I win you will see me on a regular basis and our relationship will grow —whether you vote for me or not.

“I think the voters of 26 do appreciate my character, my ideas, my commitment and my combination of youth and experience,” he added.

Mr. Bean believes he can also serve as a bridge between the generations in the PLP to ensure the party modernizes and accepts new ideas without sacrificing its history and its founding principles.

“I will try to make sure any sense of a generation gap between our elders and the youth of our party does not become a concrete division…

“I believe any institution must evolve constantly to stay as relevant as possible. We have seen our opponents become less relevant.

“Times change and we may have to change with them. You would find a 1968 BMW probably doesn’t handle the same as a 2010 BMW — but it is still a BMW.

“The PLP is the PLP but we always have to look at areas where we can improve or take a different approach.”

He said he would seek to contribute in caucus to discuss ideas and legislation within the party and where necessary offer constructive criticism internally.

Civic duty

Mr. Bean said he had no immediate ambitions to join Cabinet but would be guided by God and the people on his long-term goals.

He insisted he was not a career politician but was drawn to politics out of civic duty.

“It is not about personal ambition for me..

“I didn’t go to school to be a politician I studied aviation.”

Mr. Bean, who is qualified as a commercial pilot, said he had initially sought to get work as an Air Traffic Controller in Bermuda after ‘acing’ his exams in that field at Bailbrook College in Bath.

But he said despite his qualifications he was ‘blackballed’ by the airport authorities. He said the experience served as a catalyst to get into politics and put an end to injustice.

He is trying to get back into the aviation field, although this time as an entrepreneur with his own start-up company Bermuda Airways, rather than as a pilot or air traffic controller. The company is still in its infancy and Mr. Bean said he would reveal more details when it was fully established.

Mr. Bean has also worked in the Central Policy Unit of Government and was one of the people responsible for putting together the Mirrors porgramme.

He believes he has all the qualifications for Parliament but he is taking nothing for granted. He has circumvented the media (this is the only interview he has given), doing all his campaigning in the constituency.

“That was my approach from the beginning at the PLP selection process — talk to the people who are going to vote.

“I’ve personally been to 90 per cent of the community.

“I prefer to see people face to face than to talk to them through the media. This isn’t the U.S. or Germany — I can go out and see practically everyone. Electoral politics is all about personal relationships.”

 

Sylvan RichardsRichards flies the flag for BDA as it strives to build public trust

Sylvan Richards isn’t just a political candidate. He’s a prototype.

Today’s vote is no ordinary by-election for the Bermuda Democratic Alliance.

It is a referendum on their future — a test case for whether the country believes in their version of a ‘better way.”

As the first man to face the voters under the BDA banner, the pressure is on Mr. Richards to demonstrate the party can compete with the name brands of the PLP and the UBP — and to show the public what to expect from a BDA candidate.

He said: “The interesting thing about this by-election is that it is going to be a litmus test of where we are politically.

“I’m 51-years-old it has been a long time since Bermuda has seen such widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo.

“People are questioning our current leadership. Even the most hardcore PLP and UBP supporters are seriously questioning the state of the country and what bodes for Bermuda in the future.

“The X factor in this election is — are they so dissatisfied that they will take a chance on an organization like the BDA as opposed to the legacy parties?”

Mr. Richards believes they should be.

He admits the BDA has to build the trust of the public and convince them that they are a viable alternative.

 “We’re running two campaigns simultaneously. There is the campaign for Constituency 26 and setting the stage for the BDA whenever a general election is called.

“We don’t have the luxury of the other parties. They’ve been around for a long time and people know who they are and what they are about.

“That is why it has been very important to get my candidacy right — as a template for the introduction to the BDA for the people who are questioning who we are.”

Mr. Richards, a former member of the PLP, was selected to fight for the Warwick seat because of his family ties to the area.

He said it was important that the BDA had a ‘good showing’ in this election to confirm his belief that their message was relevant.

Asked what would be a good showing, he added: “not coming third.”

“I think there will be some surprises. If we don’t win the election, the benefit will be that we will at least have contested our first elections.

“Bermuda will know about the BDA and the quality of the candidates.

“I am a prototype. I’m not special. We have many more people like Sylvan Richards sitting in the wings chomping at the bit.”

Mr Richards — an underwriter at AWAC who is married with two children — said the by-election was also about raising the profile of the BDA and showing the public what they could expect from a BDA candidate in the future.

He said the party would roll out candidates who were analytical and able to understand and recommend legislation, critical thinkers able to debate the issues and clearly articulate their viewpoints and ‘most importantly’ people who showed integrity, honesty and morality in their dealings.

He added: “For a long time I’ve always felt the people who should be in politics, who have the most to offer, didn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

“Right now we need the best of the best. Times are serious and people need to put their personal gain aside for the good of the country.”

 

Devrae Noel-SimmonsNoel-Simmons: ‘People today are looking for a hero and that’s me... I will win’

Former bodybuilder Devrae Noel-Simmons believes Warwick is looking for a hero.

And he reckons he’s the man for the job.

The nightclub bouncer, who sports a multi-coloured Mohawk haircut and launched his campaign by coming clean about his cocaine conviction, is viewed as a colourful outsider by most observers in this by-election.

But after two months of campaigning in which he believes he has personally knocked on almost every door in Constituency 26, he is confident of victory.

“It is going to be the upset of the century,” he said this week.

“I’m confident we can win. I’m saying we will win.

“The underdog is never expected to win, so when I do it is going to be oh wow.”

Fuelling his confidence, he says, is an outpouring of warmth on the streets of Warwick where he says he has been canvassing daily, rain or shine.

“I’ve been out every day for the last two months. People are getting to see me, they are getting calls from me — not one of my team or an automated voicemail.

“When I’m walking up Khyber Pass people pull me to one side and tell me ‘keep going, you’re doing a good job, we’ve  never seen anyone like this’. That’s what makes me very proud and very confident.”

He said the fact that Constituency 26 had become a PLP stronghold shouldn’t factor into the battle.

And he urged people to vote for the best man.

“You’re voting for the man and the man is me, Devrae Noel-Simmons. You just need to look for my name and put an X in the box next to it.

“My character, my integrity, my personality all speak for themselves.”

He said he had taken the negative of his conviction and turned it into a positive.

“Who better to help the young men of Bermuda than someone who has been there.

“I can say to them, ‘I know where you are because I have been down that road’. There’s nothing worse than someone in a suit trying to say they understand you when they have never been through anything like what you’ve been through.

“I’ve been down that hole, I climbed my way out and I’m surging forward. People want to see a hero and I’m the hero.”

Mr Noel-Simmons said there was a lot of people trying to knock him down. But he accepted that was part of politics.

“I just smile at those people because at the end of the day because at the end of the day they will be shaking my hand and saying congratulations, well done..”

He denied there had been any controversy over his selection as a UBP candidate and dismissed speculation of a rift within the party, saying “we’re more united than ever”.

He admitted he was not a conventional UBP candidate but insisted that was a bonus.

“We are in the 21st century. Times change, people change – sometimes the guy in the suit is not the guy people want to listen to.

“I’m just Joe Blow helping out Joe Blow. I believe I have something that the voters want. They can trust me. You can’t say I haven’t been transparent. These people have been let down so much. They know they can trust me.”

Mr Noel-Simmons said he was being mentored by former UBP cabinet minister Quinton Edness, who held the Warwick constituency under the old voting system.

He said he was in the political game for the ‘long haul’ and would be there for the people of Warwick whatever happened.