By the time this edition of our newspaper hits the streets, the 2009 municipal elections will be only a day away, and the political soldiers will be lining up for the great battle to capture the 67 seats available across 9 municipalities. While this season’s political campaign is notably much less fierce than the last, many expect the races in municipalities such as Belize City and Punta Gorda, respectively the largest and smallest municipalities, to be hot.
Remarkably, Punta Gorda has the most contenders in the race – 25 in all. The recently emerged People’s National Party (PNP) has entered a full slate for the first time in Belize’s municipal elections history, and adding three soldiers to the battle is the Congress of the P.G. People, which is led by long-time political aspirant, Herman Lewis.
We’ve counted a total of 164 candidates, among them 6 independent candidates and reps from six parties.
In the last elections, held March 1, 2006, the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) won 64 of the 67 seats, whereas the Opposition PUP (People’s United Party) won only three seats – the mayoral seat in P.G., and a councilor seat each in the municipalities of P.G. and Benque. It will be interesting to see how the Opposition will fare this time around, given the allegations of financial mismanagement (and in some cases outright wrongdoing) that have been levied against some of the incumbents.
Where the chips fall will depend on where voters place their endorsements on Wednesday. Latest figures from the Elections and Boundaries Department reveal that there are nearly 90,000 electors registered to vote – a third of them in Belize City. The polls open at 7:00 a.m. and close 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Electors vote at polling stations in their respective divisions.
For Belize City, voters will be asked to choose one mayor and 10 councilors, since Belize City always has the biggest council. The mayoral race in Belize City is between the incumbent, Zenaida Moya of the United Democratic Party (Belize City’s first female mayor, seeking re-election for a second term), and Dr. Cecil “Chubby” Reneau for the People’s United Party.
Moya’s slate is rounded out by Eric Chang, Roger Espejo, Laura Esquivel, Andrew Faber, Dion Leslie, Leila Peyrefitte, Kevin Singh, Dean Samuels, Wayne Usher, and Philip Willoughby. The 10 PUP councilor candidates are Keith Acosta, Robert “Bobby” Cadle Jr., Adrian Danny Madrid, Jose Ortiz, Marvin “Marvelous” Ottley, Dana Todd, Ernesto Torres, Dorla Vaughan, Alberto Vellos, and Jacqueline Welch. (There are no independent candidates challenging in Belize City.)
Residents of Belmopan City, which includes the communities of San Martin, Las Flores, Salvapan, Maya Mopan, and Riviera, will be casting their votes to select one mayor and 6 councilors.
Mayor Simeon Lopez is also competing for a second term of office, and he is challenged by PUP mayoral candidate Rosalie Casey, and candidate for Vision Inspired by the People – union stalwart Hubert Enriquez. Lopez’s slate consists of Tita Balona, Shanna Banner, Pedro “Pete” Carrillo, Olga Myers, Victor Perdomo, and Amilcar Umaña.
The PUP councilor candidates in Belmopan are Alejandro Avila, Iris Cuello, William Grant, Mervin Humphreys, Jose Ico, and Santos Orellano.
The VIP councilor candidates are Elvira Brown, Kamil Espat, Robert Antonio “Bobby” Lopez, Paul Marcel Morgan, Berta Natalia Seravia, and Lloyd Sylvester Tingling.
In the northernmost municipality of Corozal Town, the opponents are from the two leading parties: The UDP slate is led by Hilberto Enrique Campos – the incumbent, but both the PUP’s Ivan J. Castillo and independent candidate – Edward “Head” Henderson, are trying to unseat him.
The rest of the UDP’s slate is rounded out by Aaron Ubaldo Babb, Jude Stanley Budna, Willie Joselle Cruz, Abigail Karina Gomez, Kenisha Vyonne Esquivel, and Nonita Encarnacion Ramirez.
Castillo’s team of six councilor candidates are Rosa Casanova, Miriam Gilharry-Gomez, Raul Altamira Mai, Arcenio Vasquez, Miguel Ricalde, and Tulio Rodriguez.
The current Orange Walk mayor, Ravell Gonzalez, is not entering Wednesday’s race. The UDP’s new mayoral candidate is Phillip Marvin de la Fuente, leading the slate for Raul “Splash” Alcoser, David Israel Constanza, Eduardo Eustacio Leiva, Joel Enrique Madera, Xenia Enid Morales, and Carlos Andres Perera.
For the PUP, Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes is seeking election as mayor of Orange Walk, along with his slate: Rozel Arana-Flores, Rafael “Rafi” Avila, Kevin E. Bernard, Josue Carballo, Alexandro “Alex” Lopez, and Faride Riverol.
San Pedro Ambergris Caye’s race is entirely between the two mass parties: the UDP and the PUP. The UDP candidates there are: Elsa Paz, seeking re-election as mayor, and her slate of councilors: Juan Jose Alamilla, Joseph Elijio, Nesto (Romel) Gomez, Justiniano (Nano) Guerrero, Severo Guerrero, and Pablo Ico.
Baldemar “Don Baldi”Graniel (for mayor) and councilor candidates Ana Cal-Najarro, Marina Kay Graniel, Andre Perez, Vaian “Vainie” Perez, Ian Pou, and Deborah “Debbie” Spain Graniel make up the PUP slate.
The twin towns of San Ignacio/Santa Elena have four mayoral candidates: the incumbent mayor, John Francis August, for the UDP, the PUP’s Jose “Mendee” Mendoza, and two independents: Luis Ayala and Alfonso “Poncho” Cruz.
Eduardo Cano, Orlando Chuc, Bernadette Fernandez, Desol D. Neal, Vaneasa Neal, A. Earl Trapp are in the race for the UDP, while Nasim “Chimmy” Lisbey, Gabriel “Benjy, Gabo” Maldonado, Jose “Joe Marr” Marr, Sr., Marleni “Guerra” Torres, Yolla “Yolla Flores” Vasquez, and Luis “Cal” Zaiden are PUP candidates challenging the UDP for control of the council.
Benque mayor, Marconi Sosa, is not seeking re-election. The UDP has a new man leading their team into the March 4 elections: Nicholasito “Nick” Ruiz, and he is being challenged by the PUP’s Shelly Pacheco-Hernandez.
The UDP’s councilor candidates in Benque are: Ana Melita Castellanos, Constance “Concie” Hyde, Salvador “Jorge” Iglesias, Marcos “Checha” Kotch, Eric Manzanero, and Miguel Velasquez.
The PUP’s slate is rounded out by Irma Garcia, Keny Luna, Francisco “Moya” Portillo, Luis “Kike” Quiroz, Jose “Wicho” Rodriguez, and Daisy Yacab-Magaña.
The Benque Association brings a new dimension to the Benque race, in adding its full slate of contenders: Humberto Moh for mayor, and Asmin Betancourt, Eric Billalta, Elmer Galvez, Carlos Gomez, Jose Gongora, and Martin Mendez vying for councilors.
The mayoral contest in Dangriga should also be interesting, since there are four persons competing for the mayoral seat – two of them independents.
Of note is that the current mayor, Frank “Pawpa” Mena, has exited the political stage after his 2006-2009 term, so Aaron “Jake” Gongora will try to retain the mayoral seat in Dangriga for the UDP, but he will be challenged by the PUP’s Simeon Noralez, and the two independents: musician, Christopher Lewis, known widely as “Master Chris,” and Francis Marin.
The UDP councilor candidates are: Peter Ciego, Grace Cleoline Fairweather, Alexander Raymond Joseph, Charles “Mr. Marr” Mariano, Harry Henry Sabal, and Elvis Usher.
The PUP contenders are: Bruce Chaplin, Martha Flores-Robinson, Myric Flores, Orlando Lucas, Adonis Martinez, and Jose Villafranco.
In our southernmost municipality, there are 25 candidates in the race in Punta Gorda – the smallest of the nine municipalities, with just over 3,000 voters.
The incumbent, Carlos “Obeah” Galvez of the PUP, is trying to hold on to his seat, and he is being challenged by deputy mayor, Floyd Lino, heading the UDP slate.
Fern Gutierrez, Anthony “Bones” Lambey, Orlando Muschamp, Albert “Ali” Ramclam, Leroy “Ned” Supaul, and Sylvestre Teul are running for the UDP, while the PUP candidates are Luis “Tito” Alvarez, Hilton “Mr. G Pooh” Garbutt, Raimundo “Papito” Noralez, Sheldon “Shel-D” Ramirez, Jose “Tio” Teul, and Jacqueline Dana Young.
The PNP’s councilor candidates in PG are: Emiliano Choc, Anthony “Hammer” Gabriel, Edsel Lopez, Royston “Big Mac” McKenzie, Maria Petillo, and Hector Ortega Bejerano.
Congress of the P.G. People has nominated two councilors: Adrian Lewis and Joseph Lewis.
Meanwhile, Hervan Marion Morgan is riding as a lone ranger in his quest to win a councilor seat on the Punta Gorda Town Council.
The 6 parties in the race are: (1) The United Democratic Party (code color: red), (2) The People’s United Party (blue), (3) The People’s National Party (green), (4) The Vision Inspired By The People (yellow), (5) The Benque Association (purple), and (6) The Congress of the P.G. People (brown).
There are a total of 6 independent candidates: (1) Luis Ayala of San Ignacio/Santa Elena (light green), (2) Alfonso “Poncho” Cruz of San Ignacio/Santa Elena (gold), (3) Edward “Head” Henderson of Corozal (pink), (4) Christopher John “Master Chris” Lewis of Dangriga (gray), (5) Francis Xavier Marin of Dangriga (peach), and (6) Hervan Marion Morgan of Punta Gorda (black).