By the time all of the ballots were counted in Warwick, two of the seats held by the One Bermuda Alliance, had been won by the Progressive Labour Party; in their 24 to 12 landslide General Election victory.
Among the surprise defeats on the night of July 18th, was the upset by first-time PLP candidate Dennis Lister III, who unseated OBA incumbent Jeff Sousa in Warwick West, in a vote of 530 to 518 PLP win.
Colonel David Burch won the seat previously held by former OBA MP Wayne Scott, in the constituency next door. The former PLP Cabinet Minister, who served in the Senate, won 661 to 338 first-time personal victory over OBA political newcomer Sheila Gomez.
Asked for his initial reaction to finally winning a seat in the House of Assembly, after standing in five elections, he said: “In a word – overwhelming! The magnitude of it all was overwhelming!
“We knew we were going to win because we worked hard and people were more honest this time. They told us how they were going to vote, but we didn’t expect the size of the victory. I was dumbfounded!
“For me, it has always been about representing and helping the people, especially when you have the number of people who genuinely said they were going to support us. It instills in you that you have a responsibility to them first – it’s important!”
Once the final count was in, he said more than one thousand people had voted in his constituency. “That’s only 260 people who didn’t vote. That means that they were engaged and wanted change, and it was even more gratifying to know that they want to work with us.”
After canvassing since 2013, he said the clear response from the electorate “across the board was very encouraging”.
“We have been working consistently so people got used to seeing us. Once the election was called it was cruise control, people were used to seeing you and they remained engaged right up to the General Election. What we heard from people most were concerns about the economy and jobs, particularly with the younger voters. The support that came from them was also overwhelming because we engaged them.
“It was very encouraging to see young voters exercise their right to vote, knowing that they have power, even if they were unemployed, they chose to use the power of their vote.”
Asked which final count surprised him most, he recalled the first-time candidate who unseated the incumbent in Warwick West. “I was shocked when Dennis Lister III beat Jeff Sousa, but we knew he would do well because of the synergies between the two of our constituencies, they’re right next door,” Col Burch said.
While canvassing in his constituency, he recalled talking “with a group of young men on Cedar Hill regularly” who were all encouraged “to vote before high noon”.
“A lot of people don’t realise that this was my fifth election, but this one was different in the sense that people were more honest and they genuinely told us who they were going to vote for and who they weren’t going to vote for.
“There were about 400 people who didn’t vote in 2012, by 2016 they admitted that they understood what that meant. And we made an effort to see all of them, so most of the work was done way before the election was called. The only difficulty for the four people canvassing with me was canvassing in the high heat of the summer,” he added.
“We spent time with our constituents, we put the work in, and I can tell you I am a hands on Member of Parliament. And I plan to use input given by many of the voters we met, who said they want to be a part of diversifying Bermuda’s economy.
“There was one couple in particular, who were the Genesis of the IT hub the party has formulated, and I will be using their insight moving forward.”
Asked if he was disappointed that he was not re-appointed to head the Ministry of National Security, a post he once held, he said: “The Premier made a smart decision and I know certain segments of the media would have painted that whole negative scenario based on issues like term limits, if I was returned to that Ministry.”
But as a former Minister, faced with the same onslaught of gang and gun violence, Col Burch commended the new Minister’s decision to reactivate the Inter-Agency Gang Taskforce, to meet regularly and share information to combat gang and gun violence in Bermuda.
“I think a lot of things would have moved further along by now if the Inter-Agency Taskforce we set up in 2010 didn’t languish,” said Col Burch. The former PLP government started it, then the government changed and it languished. But it’s a critical component because it’s based on the concept of teamwork, where everybody’s on the same page.”
Overall, he said “it’s a giant step forward” even in this Ministry, where there are internships and on the job training opportunities in Public Works.
“I think the Premier picked the best person for the job. Wayne Caines is keen as mustard, he’s passionate about young people and he’s genuine, which is important because young people can sense when you really care about them. And I appreciate that a significant portion of his interaction and intervention with young people is done out of the limelight.”
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