Another United Progressive Party candidate has been selected for the next General Election. In a result that is considered by some to be an upset, the party selected Lawyer and former Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party M.P. for St. Philip South Sherfield Bowen to contest that seat in the next election over Senator Shawn Nicholas.
The choice is also controversial to some because of the checkered past of the candidate-elect which is sure to generate much conversation on the campaign trail. As for Nicholas, though it may be too soon to tell whether she will bow out of elective politics, it is safe to say at this point that she will not be entering the Lower House of Parliament in the near future.
Sen. Shawn Nicholas made a gamble that did not pay off. Presumably, she thought that by moving to the St. Philip South Seat she would have had an easier path to becoming an M.P. considering she struggled from 2009 to unseat the incumbent Sir Robin Yearwood in the St. Phillip’s North seat who labeled her as a social climber.
Sadly for her ambitions, however, she came up against a formidable contender in the form of Sherfield Bowen in a primary, who managed to beat her convincingly. Considered a rising star in the United Progressive Party by some, Shawn’s perceived cool, calm and friendly demeanor along with a keen intellect and attention to detail were seen as indicators that she could go quite far in the political arena.
Sadly, despite being one of the more seasoned female veterans of the United Progressive Party, her talents never saw her enter the Lower House. Perhaps it was naiveté on her part or a tactical error on the part of her party, to put its General Secretary to this embarrassing defeat, a move if carefully considered should have happened long ago if she were to have any hope of winning a seat in an election in Antigua and Barbuda. Winning St. Philip North under Yearwood was a near impossible task. Now, she will have to hope that her party gains the victory at the next General Election and through this she most likely will gain some place in a future Harald Lovell administration.
Sherfield Bowen’s victory marks a return to active politics for the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. Mr. Bowen is no stranger to Antiguan and Barbudan politics nor is he any stranger to the St. Phillip South seat having represented the constituency from 1999 – 2003. His reentry into politics could be a real gain for the United Progressive Party in a seat that was won by only 20 votes at the last election.
He brings knowledge of the constituency and knowledge of the Labour Party as he is yet another defector from the ABLP to the UPP. Despite his notoriety in the constituency, it will nonetheless take some time for people to get over his obvious political baggage. No doubt the ABLP will be quick to weaponize his past legal troubles in any bid to discredit him. Consequently, he and the party must find a way to deflect these attacks and win the people’s trust.
The St. Phillip South seat is a must win seat for the United Progressive Party. The party managed to turn this red seat blue under former MP Wilmoth Daniel who struggled for many years to unseat the incumbent Reuben Harris before finally being victorious in 1994. Except for briefly between 1999-2004 he and by extension the UPP held on to this seat for over nearly two decades.
It is a seat they will need to regain and a seat that is perhaps the most marginal in the country. Lennox Weston’s very narrow victory over Chester Hughes means that he is on the chopping block this election. Bowen is an experienced politician and knows the terrain. Provided that his past does not haunt him this is a seat the UPP expects to win and needs to as well.