Robert Le Hunte

The PNM’s La Brea executive so far has six nominations for Saturday’s screening exercise and the executive’s now open to supporting a candidate other than the initially favoured nominee, former minister Robert Le Hunte.

This was confirmed by La Brea executive chairman Wayne Wood on Wednesday. His statements on openness to a new nominee signalled that the executive’s strong lobby for Le Hunte is over.

La Brea faces the PNM’s screening team again on Saturday after two previous futile attempts by the executive to obtain Le Hunte as the candidate. Le Hunte resigned from Government recently over policy differences in Cabinet, but he and the executive remained hopeful of he’d get the candidacy.

The executive had backed Le Hunte twice.

This was when he was screened three weeks ago after receiving majority party group support.

He wasn’t accepted by PNM’s screening team. La Brea found four other nominees, but the executive continued supporting him.

However, at that time Le Hunte who initially commanded support from 16 of the 19 party groups, only got support from nine groups. The four nominees had support from a total of 10 groups.

After that last occasion, the PNM’s leadership spoke to the executive, again advising La Brea to widen its search.

Yesterday Wood said about 22 people had offered themselves for nomination. Party groups met Tuesday and nominations were made for several people.

Nominations so far are for former SWRHA head Keith McDonald, social worker Dr Paulette Joycelyn, businesswoman Jimeal Chichester, research officer Anika Lawrence, businessman Anton George, Dr Germaine Bovell-Pitt.

Wood said he expected there would be nine people for screening. All names will be reviewed shortly by the executive which will determine its recommendations for the screening team.

Confirming the executive’s open to finding a candidate in this process and is no longer maintaining calls for Le Hunte, chairman Wood said, “The leadership spoke to us, giving us information and understanding, so we hope to have a meeting of the minds on Saturday on how we go forward in the interest of party and community.”

“Having deliberations with the leadership, we were able to understand their point of view and we gave ours. Therefore there’s a way we can now go forward to conclude this matter.”

Asked if Le Hunte would be assisting the unit with the new candidate and may share his reported wide expertise and La Brea connections to help his party win the seat, Wood said, “I’m certain whatever the party decides (on a candidate), Mr Le Hunte who’s of long-standing in the PNM, will be in step with whatever’s decided.”

Conversations are expected to be held with Le Hunte.

Several La Brea PNM supporters who last week expressed concern that Le Hunte’s 31 years with the party might “go out the window” if he wasn’t selected are now in favour of seeing his wide experience being used to assist PNM in the campaign.

Wood said the executive is seeking certain criteria in a candidate.

“The criteria we’re looking at is that a nominee must have love, passion and commitment for La Brea and its people and must be able to develop its areas. They must have a relationship with the executive, people must understand the PNM and the communities’ needs and appreciate the youths.”