Paula Cox has officially launched her campaign as an independent candidate for Devonshire North West, at a press conference introduced by former Opposition leader Marc Bean.
The pair — both former Progressive Labour Party leaders — are united in their wish for “clean hands” and a “pure heart”, Ms Cox told the media.
Ms Cox, the premier from 2010 to 2012 and a prominent PLP figure since the 1990s, made headlines last month when she quit to run as an independent, after party leaders chose Wayne Caines to run in Constituency 14 ahead of her.
The OBA candidate for Devonshire North West is Glen Smith, who surprisingly defeated Ms Cox at the 2012 General Election.
Emphasising her commitment to working with the constituents, Ms Cox unveiled a “covenant with the people” that extolled her political background as “the embodiment of integrity, experience, knowledge, honesty, stability and commitment”.
“I’m sure there are many that wonder why I have chosen the path of an independent,” Ms Cox said.
“I’m sure there are many that wonder why I want to re-enter a political landscape that has become so toxic and polarised. But there are too few who are willing to stand up for principle and fight the injustices that continue to plague Bermuda, even now in 2017.”
She added: “I would like to see more women in politics — often women avoid the up and down, the adversarial climate.”
Sitting next to her was area voter Naomi Daniel, who said she was appearing “on behalf of the hundreds of supporters who see you as our best representative”.
Acknowledging the legislation that she steered through Parliament towards the end of her tenure as Premier, Ms Cox said: “We’ve seen the two pieces of good governance legislation and the Office of Project Management and Procurement — also, you will note not a whisper came out of the Commission of Inquiry to indicate that at any time I acted in any questionable manner.
“So when former PLP leader Marc Bean speaks of the importance of clean hands and a pure heart, I agree. Clean hands, a pure heart, a sharp mind and clear vision. I believe I represent that, and that is what the residents of Constituency 14 can expect from me; those who vote for me and even those who choose not to. If elected, I will serve all.
“I’ve personally had to endure an unrelenting barrage of lies and deception all with the view of misleading the voting public and getting them to question my integrity. This petty politics must give way to a grand mission of hope and inclusion, where all our children can discover their destiny and realise their calling to greatness. Petty politics has to go. We can rise.”
Asked by The Royal Gazette if she was concerned at the possibility of splitting the vote for the PLP, from which she resigned last month after a rift over the party’s candidate selection, Ms Cox said: “What the people will decide is who is best qualified to represent their interests. If they do the analysis and look at the experience and track record, I think they will come inevitably to the conclusion that voting for Paula will be the best choice for them, in terms of having an advocate on the floor of the House.”
Polls under the PLP and by Ms Cox’s campaign suggested that she would win the seat, she added.
“What came through clearly was that people saw the OBA representative as missing in action,” she said.
Ms Cox also said that she wished the PLP well in the campaign — and, when asked if she would consider rejoining, she said: “Let’s not pre-empt the process. Right now, let’s get through this election.”
Mr Bean described Ms Cox as chastened by her defeat in 2012, telling this newspaper: “Sister Paula is a person that, after she lost the election, actually redoubled her efforts to commit to Constituency 14. Unlike many others who come and go in politics for their own narrow, selfish interests, she showed penance almost, and sought forgiveness.”
He vouched for her adherence to the PLP, attending “just about every meeting” and supporting “the constitutional integrity of our party”.
Mr Caines, he added, was “a fine gentleman” whom he would support fully — had he received the backing of the party’s branch.
Mr Bean condemned the island’s level of political discourse, and criticised the media as falling short in bolstering the debate.
“As a leader, my job is not to follow but to stand on principle — not this ‘let’s fix and deal with the problems later’,” he said.
Expressing hope for either Ms Cox or Mr Caines to win next week, Mr Bean added:
“Paula Cox has been an upholder of our constitution. She has not done anything wrong, but sought to uphold the constitution. I was the victim of the same environment, where expediency trumps principle. It was not to the detriment of me but it’s really to the detriment of our children, born and unborn.”
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