By Bill W. Cooper
Maryland, River Gee and Grand Gedeh Counties also witnessed significant changes in their leadership at the Legislature, raising volumes of the aspirations and demands from the electorate.
Maryland County, situated in the southeastern region of Liberia and known for its vibrant political scene, experienced a considerable shift in its representation, with the shocker being the defeat of the sitting House Speaker, Bhofal Chambers; though he served his six years term as per the Constitution.
Chambers of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), contested the County’s District 2 seat after serving the Legislature for almost 20 years as Representative, he got defeated by a former staff, Anthony Williams.
The outgoing Speaker served the House of Representatives for three terms-2005-2023. He was first elected to the House in 2005, on the ticket of the former ruling Unity Party (UP); and soon became a very vocal lawmaker.
But following some bitterness between him and former President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, he then left the UP and joined the then Congress for Democratic Change, which later merged into a Coalition with the Liberia People Democratic Party (LPDP) and the National Patriotic Party (NPP).
Another incumbent representative replaced in Maryland is Isaac Roland of District 3, who got elected to the House as a Liberty Party (LP) member in 2011. Roland who managed to serve two terms though not much is heard of him in terms of his works are the Legislature and wit his constituents, he did not get the blessing of his people for a 3rd term therefore was replaced by Austin Blidi Taylor, an independent candidate.
Rep. P. Mike Jury of District 1 and a member of the ruling CDC is the only name from Maryland who retained his seat in the House though not much can be said about him as well in terms of his legislative work but he worked in Maryland in the NGO space and apparently his role among his kinsmen secured for him the seat, while J. Gble-Bo Brown, a undefined decision maker on plenary’s floor or on sensitive issues but very popular with his people retained his seat as the Senator.
In River Gee, incumbent Senator, Conmany B. Wesseh of the UP, was defeated by Representative Francis Dopoh. Wesseh is known for his wisdom and elderly stance in the legislature but his actions seem not to be felt among his kinsmen.
Wesseh got elected into the Interim Legislative Assembly in 2004 on the Civil Society ticket during the interim government arrangement of C. Gyude Bryant but thereafter, he ran for a seat in the Liberian Senate in 2005, 2009, and 2011, losing each time, but was fortunate to win in 2014.
Another not well-known legislator from District 1, Alexander Poure got retained while District 2, Choloplay Isaac and Johnson Williams of District 3, all on CDC tickets won in River Gee.
As for Grand Gedeh County, George Boley of Liberia Rebuilding Party (REBUILDERS) was dethroned from District 2 seat by Marie G. Johnson of the Liberia Restoration Party (LRP), after just one term.
Rep. Boley won the Grand Gedeh Legislative seat in 2017 on the ticket of the National Democratic Party of Liberia (NDPL), while Thomas Yaya Nimely of the LRP won the county’s senatorial seat, replacing incumbent Marshall Dennis.
Also, Alex Chersia Grant of the UP contested for the Senate after two terms at the House, 2011-2023, but fell short of getting the mandate to advance in the Legislature therefore, Jacob C. Debee of LINU become the choice of District 3.
While Erol Madison Gwion was able to retain his seat as the county’s District 1 representative. Gwion came to the legislature through a by-election, following the election victory of then Rep. Zoe Emmanuel Pennue to the Liberian Senate.
As these three counties, like other counties, adapt to their newly elected leaders, it is essential for the incoming representatives and senators to acknowledge the concerns raised by the electorate by demonstrating a commitment to addressing the developmental challenges faced by their respective regions, engaging with the citizens, and fostering inclusive policies that promote social and economic progress.
With the tabulation and pronouncement of final results of the October 10, 2023 Presidential and Legislative elections fast approaching, this paper has embarked on a journey of looking at the performance of outgoing and retained legislators.
We will also be analyzing the incoming representatives and senators, as to how they will fit in, in order to get on par with their colleagues, in terms of legislative proceeding and functions.
Taking into consideration that the NEC has already announced winners of both senators and representatives from the just ended polls, majority of the counties witnessed a dramatic change, as most incumbent representatives and senators failed to retain their respective seats.
On Tuesday, October 10, 2023, Liberians in their numbers made significant changes to the National Legislature, by voting out most of the incumbent representatives and senators through the ballot box.
However, the NEC is yet to announce the winner of vote-rich Nimba County, following the rerun in two polling places situated in Electoral District 4, after it was reported that some unknown individuals stole two of the ballot boxes on Election Day.
Every electoral process in Liberia is a crucial event in shaping the country’s democratic institutions, as it also provides an opportunity for citizens to exercise their right to vote and choose Legislators that will champion their interests at the national level.
Note: This is part three of our series “Who’s Moving; Who’s Dropping?”