The content originally appeared on: The BVI Beacon
With the announcement of an election date anticipated this week, candidates have been appealing to voters, holding campaign launches, and participating in at least one district debate.
The deadline to register to vote was on March 14, and the race for voters’ favour is heating up.
Though few new candidates were announced over the past week, that is likely to change soon, with three major political parties planning big launch events in the coming days.
The first debate of the season, which was held on March 12 in Long Look, gave candidates for districts Seven and Eight — who include two party leaders — a chance to air their hopes for the future.
During a broadcast session moderated by Theodore James at the Church of God of Prophecy Long Look, Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley, the Virgin Islands Party leader who holds the District Seven seat, faced off with independent newcomer Perline Scatliffe-Leonard.
And for the District Eight seat, VIP candidate Allen Wheatley challenged Health and Social Development Minister Marlon Penn, the National Democratic Party incumbent and party leader.
The two challengers spoke first. Ms. Scatliffe-Leonard started off by highlighting her community ties and 33 years of public service.
Mr. Wheatley pledged to help shape a new, bright future for the district, backed by his experience as the former financial secretary and businessman.
When Mr. James asked what projects each candidate would hope to carry out in their districts, Mr. Wheatley said his priorities would include rehabilitating the Willard Wheatley Primary School and completing work on Fat Hogs Bay Harbour.
“This harbour has tremendous economic potential,” he said, claiming that he sought to earmark half a million dollars to advance the project while he served as financial secretary more than 20 years ago and was optimistic about getting it funded.
Ms. Scatliffe-Leonard said she would pursue beautification projects, proposing an “adopt-a-highway” model of keeping specific sections clean.
She added that she would work to create more job training opportunities.
The incumbents then spoke about how they have improved their districts during their tenure. Mr. Penn touted infrastructure development including reengineering the Beef Island road to improve water distribution.
“Still, today, that is one of the best roads in our community,” he said.
He also shared his hope that work done on the Red Bay dock would help make it a hub for the “blue economy.”
More broadly, Mr. Penn said he is proud of helping to bring more tourism into the community via sports, the Long Bay beach, and other avenues. He also said he plans to further develop those projects through public and private partnerships.
Dr. Wheatley noted the difficulties faced in recent years, but said he is proud of the governments’ efforts to supply care packages to people in need and of the establishment of a community pantry. He also cited progress on other social issues, particularly for seniors.
Work, he added, is about to get under way on another phase of community centre repairs and other infrastructure projects including sewerage systems.
Both candidates pledged to offer their experience to advance delayed projects and promote the community’s young people.
The Progressive VI Movement has yet to announce its candidates for districts Seven and Eight, but the party plans to present its slate on March 12 at Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park with a meet-and-greet at 6:30 p.m. and an official launch from 7 p.m.
The NDP is also planning a launch this weekend, at 7 p.m. on March 11 at Sir Olva Georges Plaza.
In addition to Mr. Penn and Dr. Kedrick Pickering (a former District Seven incumbent now running at large), Myron Walwyn is joining the NDP to challenge the District Six incumbent, Junior Minister for Tourism Alvera Maduro-Caines (VIP).
Other residents confirmed their NDP candidacy this week as well. Aaron Parillon, who made an unsuccessful bid for office in 2019, said March 10 that he intends to run with the party in District Three. Renard Estridge said he plans to run at large with the NDP.
The VIP is also planned to launch its remaining candidates in the coming days, starting with a March 17 event on Virgin Gorda.
Independent candidates have continued to campaign as well, particularly for the seat of former District One representative Andrew Fahie.
Chad George — who is running against VIP candidate Dr. Karl Dawson and the PVIM’s Sylvia Moses for that district — held his official campaign launch on March 11 at Cappoons Bay.
“I care wholeheartedly about the advancement, development, and improvement that can be made in our district,” he said.
Mr. George listed numerous projects in need of attention, including the West End ferry terminal, the Abraham Leonard Community Centre, Isabella Morris Primary School, Leonora Delville Primary School, the Apple Bay hill, coastal roads, the Frenchmans Cay Bridge sidewalk, incinerator repairs, district-wide beautification, and more.
He pledged to offer a different perspective from a typical politician and promised visionary leadership.
District Three incumbent Julian Fraser, who has not yet officially declared his candidacy, took the opportunity in the House of Assembly on March 9 to deny rumours that he had joined the VIP.
He also said he wore an orange tie that day to represent his own party, Progressives United. However, he had not officially launched his campaign as of Beacon press time on March 15.