Family affair - Ann Marie Vaz set to join her husband Daryl as JLP representatives in Portland
Ann Marie Vaz, the wife of Portland Western Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, is poised to make the plunge into representational politics as the next Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) representative in the neighbouring Portland Eastern constituency.
Nine months after her husband first hinted at the possibility, The Sunday Gleaner sources say Labourites in the constituency have signalled to the party that they want Mrs Vaz as their next representative.
In reaction to these calls, Trinidadian political analyst/pollster Derek Ramsamooj was contracted to test the pulse of the constituency, and his findings have almost sealed the deal.
Ramsamooj, who correctly projected the JLP's victory in the 2016 general election and its recent by-election in St Mary South West, found overwhelming support for Mrs Vaz, with a majority of voters saying they would vote for her in the next general election.
Mrs Vaz polled 53 per cent to emerge the people's overwhelming choice in the poll which included Derron Wood, who unsuccessfully ran on the JLP's ticked in 2016; Lynvale Bloomfield, the sitting MP; and Andrea Moore, who the People's National Party (PNP) has toyed with as a potential candidate in the seat.
The poll also found that she had strong name recognition, with 64 per cent of residents saying they know her, while 36 per cent said they had met her before.
Wood, who remains the JLP's caretaker for the constituency, told The Sunday Gleaner that he would gladly make way for Mrs Vaz as he is the one who invited her to represent the people.
"I requested of her to consider running for this seat, as she is quite popular among the people on both sides of the political divide," said Wood.
"She is well loved by the people in East Portland, and one of her greatest assets is her ability and willingness to assist those that are in need. I will give her my unwavering support, as she is best suited to lead the charge in reviving and restoring pride to this constituency, which is in dire need of quality representation. She has the full backing of all sitting councillors," added Wood.
RIGHT PERSON FOR THE JOB
He rejected claims that he is being pressured into making way for the wife of the man who has dubbed himself 'Mr Portland'.
"Let me categorically point out that it is my decision to support her wholeheartedly, as she represents the best opportunity for the party to wrest this seat from the PNP," declared Wood.
He was supported by fellow Labourite, Mayor of Port Antonio Paul Thompson, who told The Sunday Gleaner that when East Portland is transformed into green, with the party already in command of West Portland, the name of parish should be changed to "Vazland".
He added: "She is coming in at the right time. Not only that, but she is the right person for the job, and she is very charismatic. This constituency is in need of a saviour, and that deliverer is Ann Marie Vaz."
The JLP team in the parish has also been given a fillip, with businesswoman Shawna Elliott, whose family members are long-time PNP backers and stalwart Comrades in the constituency, indicating that she will throw her hat into the political ring on a JLP ticket if Ann Marie is the candidate.
According to Elliott, her aim is to unseat former mayor of Port Antonio, Wayne McKenzie, in the Prospect division.
"As a young business person, I realise that this constituency is dormant, and as such I am one that supports issues and policies," said Elliott.
"My independent mind has told me that for the PNP to have such a long control of this constituency, where the basic infrastructure has run down, and where unemployment is at its highest, they have failed the people miserably," added Elliott.
Efforts to get a comment from Mrs Vaz were unsuccessful last week, but her husband confirmed that she is poised to make the political plunge.
He said there have been a lot of persons from all walks of life and political persuasion calling for his wife to run in East Portland.
"It is not an easy decision for her or the family, but we, as a family, are supporting her decision to serve her country," said Mr Vaz, who first hinted of the possibility during a radio interview last June.
"It is a tough seat to win based on the past election results, but I feel if there is ever a chance for the JLP to take the seat, it is now with Ann Marie. She has the passion, personality and commitment, and I will lend my political experience and give her 100 per cent support," added Mr Vaz.
He noted that it is not yet a done deal as his wife will have to go through the party's processes like all other aspirants before a final decision is made.