Black Immigrant Daily News
It appears that businessman and former state minister, Kern Spencer, and attorney and former constituency caretaker for Central Clarendon, Zulieka Jess, are gearing up to do battle to ultimately become the People’s National Party (PNP) caretaker-candidate for the North East St Elizabeth constituency.
Spencer, a former Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency, and Jess, who contested the 2020 General Elections for the PNP in Central Clarendon, have both posted flyers on their respective Facebook pages, which seemingly signal that they have interest in the St Elizabeth seat.
Considered a traditional PNP seat, the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Delroy Slowley thwarted the efforts of the PNP’s Basil Waite to win the seat in the 2020 polls.
When contacted on Saturday to confirm if Jess and Spencer have applied to bid for the North East St Elizabeth seat, PNP General Secretary, Dr Dayton Campbell, neither confirmed nor denied that both comrades had done so.
“Persons have applied for 57 of the constituencies. I am not minded to be listing out any one constituency over the others,” Campbell told Loop News.
Kern Spencer… looking to get back into the saddle in representational politics.
He, however, explained that, “The party opened the selection process for constituencies in January across the country, not just North East St Elizabeth, but across the country.”
So far, the PNP said it has received applications for 57 of the 63 constituencies.
Campbell outlined the process that is to follow after the party receives the applications.
“The persons will be evaluated by the regional panel when they go to the party’s Integrity Commission.
“Thereafter, they will continue their campaigns, and then an assessment will be made as who is the most viable candidate,” he shared.
Added the former MP for North West St Ann on the overall PNP candidate selection for constituencies: “It’s a process and I don’t think we need to be going into that detail (relative to the naming of persons who applied for constituencies) in the public space about those things.
“I think we (PNP) owe it to the country to agree that we’ve opened a process and that is under way,” Campbell stated.
Dr Dayton Campbell… not yes, no nor maybe so.
Kern Spencer, the PNP’s Chairman for Region Five, has long signalled his intention to return to representational politics.
Region Five covers the parishes of Manchester and St Elizabeth.
Spencer was appointed a senator and parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of National Security by then Prime Minister PJ Patterson in 2005 at the age of 28.
By 2007, Spencer was elected MP for North West St Elizabeth, but his tenure as a parliamentarian was cut short when, during his stint as State Minister in the Ministry of Mining and Energy, he became embroiled in what has been widely labelled as the Cuban lightbulb scandal.
He was booked on corruption charges relative to the scandal in 2008, but was freed in 2014.
Since then, he has focused on several business ventures in North East St Elizabeth and the wider parish, including Spencer’s Ventures Inc and Best of Jamaica (BOJ) TV, where he is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of both entities.
Spencer has been noticeably making his presence felt for the PNP since Mark Golding assumed leadership of the party, eventually becoming chairman for Region Five. He is also a PNP executive member, St Elizabeth PNP parish manager, and secretary for the North East St Elizabeth constituency.
On February 11, Spencer posted a flyer on his Facebook page, which said: “Your leader born yah!”
With his name boldly written in white on an orange background, Spencer’s academic achievements were listed, including a master’s degree in Government.
“North East St Elizabeth – The time come Now!” the flyer further said.
Spencer: “The time come Now!”
Other achievements in both his political and private life are listed in a caption above the flyer.
As an indication that he has been getting some level of support for his intended representational political comeback, a few of his supporters commented on his latest political move.
Among them, Dorothy Miller wrote: “No Johnnie come lately. A full blooded, hardworking, dedicated, true and proven comrade who has been in the trenches. You have my 200% support, comrade Kern Spencer.”
To those comments, Spencer said a simple, “Thanks Cde (comrade).”
Another Facebook user said: “About Time!” to which Spencer reacted by saying, “Respect”.
Spencer’s Facebook page has also been lit with activities of him interacting with various citizens in the constituency.
It was a similar situation for attorney Zulieka Jess, who has posted photographs and videos of herself touring the constituency and meeting comrades and other party stalwarts there.
In a February 12 Facebook post, Jess posted a flyer with some words, seemingly hinting that she would be applying for the seat.
“North East St Elizabeth, It’s time to start a new chapter! Say Yes to Jess! Young and Fresh,” said the flyer.
In a lengthy statement accompanying the flyer, Jess recalled that last year she informed the PNP that she would not be contesting the next general elections as the candidate for Central Clarendon.
Notwithstanding her decision to leave that constituency, she said she “continued to serve the party”.
“Sometime in or around July 2022, I was contacted by one of our councillors from NE (North East) St Elizabeth, who informed me that they needed a candidate, and felt that I was the right person for the seat,” she wrote.
Jess: “I know it will not be an easy road”.
“I was surprised and humbled that he had reached out, but politely informed him that I was not available.
“Persons from other constituencies were also reaching out, but honestly, I felt exhausted and battle-worn. I had just emerged from one internal party struggle, and had no appetite to embark on another,” she said.
Jess had intended to be nominated as a PNP vice-president last year, but her application was rejected by the party.
The attorney said she continued to receive calls from the comrades in North East St Elizabeth, even from a second PNP councillor, whom she said expressed intentions to bid for the seat.
Jess said having considered several factors, including the work that is needed to be done to win back the seat for the PNP, and her need to relocate to St Elizabeth, she once again declined the offer to come to the constituency.
She explained that she received another call in December, to come and see for herself what the ground was like in North East St Elizabeth, and she finally accepted the invitation to visit the area.
“Those of you who are keen observers of the political landscape would realise that I have been spending a lot of time in St Elizabeth over the past several weeks,” Jess posted.
“I have been moved by the genuine love and kindness of the people. I am impressed with their drive, and understand their desire to see progress,” she continued.
“There is a line in our party anthem that challenges us to awake from our slumber and answer the call. After careful consideration, I have agreed to answer the call,” Jess added.
By her own admission, she said: “I know it will not be an easy road”.
Added the attorney: “I am humbled to have the support of the majority of the divisional leaders in NE (North East) St Elizabeth, the former Member of Parliament, key leaders in the communities, and the residents of the constituency.
“I wish to thank Councillor Fisher, Councillor Myers and Councillor-Candidate Nembhard for holding my hand as I traverse the hills and flats of Balaclava, Siloah, Santa Cruz and Braes River.”
Jess urged her supporters to keep her in their prayers as she seemingly embarked on the road to bid for the seat.