The Free National Movement (FNM) last night ratified five additional candidates for the next general election, bringing to 30 the number of candidates named by the party thus far.
Two incumbents were ratified: Dr. Duane Sands (Elizabeth) and Carlton Bowleg (North Andros and the Berry Islands).
Minister of State for Finance Kwasi Thompson was ratified for East Grand Bahama.
Courtney Coulibaly, an engineer and owner of Dynamic Builders & Project Manager, was ratified for Centreville, a seat currently held by Reece Chipman, who was elected an FNM, but resigned from the party and is now an independent.
Vandea Stuart, owner of a catering company, was ratified for Central and South Abaco.
The FNM said Coulibaly and Stuart will bring “important perspective and fresh ideas to advancing the FNM’s agenda to help our tourism industry reach new heights”.
The party said its newly ratified candidates will continue the FNM’s work to generate a more diverse economy and create new jobs while delivering world-class education for the next generation of Bahamians.
Twenty-one of the candidates ratified thus far are incumbents.
The Nassau Guardian understands the remaining nine candidates will be ratified next week.
‘Look at the record’
Sands’ ratification last night was closely watched as in recent weeks some FNM insiders had expressed doubt that he would be the party’s standard bearer for Elizabeth once again.
When asked if he expected to be ratified, Sands replied, “Well, expect is a very strong word. I had hoped the process would be completed tonight and indeed it was. So, you know, I had indicated my interest in, once again, remaining the standard bearer. This would be for the fourth time for the great constituency of Elizabeth.
“That process was completed in the middle of February and I was advised by the nominating committee that they would be considering my application tonight.”
Sands resigned as minister of health last May after taking responsibility for facilitating a breach of travel protocol that had been articulated by the competent authority.
He subsequently became a vocal — and sometimes critical — backbencher in Parliament, refusing to support extensions of the state of emergency.
Sands said he believes he has made it very clear that “fundamentally, I believe that the Free National Movement — in its origin and as its execution over the years — has demonstrated that it is a big tent that is built on the power from dissension, internal dissension and arrival on consensus”.
“Sometimes that isn’t a pretty process,” he told reporters outside Holy Trinity Anglican Church, where the ratification took place.
“But, when you have the ability to be critical in a loving way, in a supportive way and the goal is nation building, and I think that augurs well for the strength of an organization.”
Sands said it’s time to return to the streets to convince the public to look at the record “not just of the individual candidate but of the Free National Movement to gain a victory at the poll”.
‘We are not done’
Thompson, who previously ran on the FNM’s ticket for Pineridge and currently serves in the Senate, said he is humbled to carry the party’s banner for East Grand Bahama.
“It’s about service,” Thompson said.
“The people of Grand Bahama and now the people of East Grand Bahama have always been my motivation to serve. I truly want to make a positive impact in their lives.
“I have lived in Grand Bahama my entire life. I know its people and its potential. We cannot stop fighting to improve their lives.”
Thompson served as minister for Grand Bahama during Hurricane Dorian, a deadly Category 5 storm that ravaged the island in September 2019.
He said he saw firsthand the devastation “but also saw firsthand their strength, heroism and courage”.
“We are not done,” he said.
The seat is currently held by Peter Turnquest, who resigned from the Cabinet last November after he was named in a court filing, which accused him of involvement in an alleged fraudulent scheme. He has strongly denied the claim.
Last night, Stuart expressed confidence that the FNM will once again win Central and South Abaco — even in the aftermath of Dorian.
She said she plans to “keep the fire burning and restore hope” for Abaconians following the monster storm, which left scores dead and hundreds missing.
“Right now, it’s just about focusing on taking care of the people,” said Stuart when asked about her plans for the area if elected.
“[It’s about] restoration, rebuilding and all of those efforts. So, pretty much that’s it.”
Current Central and South Abaco MP James Albury recently announced that he was not seeking the nomination.