The Prime Minister’s call to widen the pool of potential candidates for the controversial La Brea seat has been heeded by party faithfuls as 13 potential candidates turned up for screening in San Fernando on Saturday.

Dr Keith Rowley walked into the PNM’s San Fernando East constituency office around 3 pm but declined interviews with the media.

Among those screened for the La Brea seat were former chairman of the Southwest Regional Health Authority Keith McDonald, former Petrotrin manager Neil Derrick, Dr Germine Bovell-Pitt, Dr Paulette Jorsling, Jermel Pierre, former councillor Maurice Alexander, Amika Lawrence, Shivon Davis-Spencer, Jineal Chichester, Eldica Hospedales, Kizzie Vincent, Anton George and youth activist Adasa Edwards.

For the La Brea seat, party activists said despite the increase in potential candidates from seven to 13, former Public Utilities Minister Robert Le Hunte seems to be the people’s choice with nine executive members voting for him. Two others voted for candidate Dr Jorsling, two for George and one for Hospedales (Edica).

During the last screening, 16 out of 22 members from the party’s constituency executive voted for Le Hunte. A party activist who requested anonymity said Le Hunte’s rejection twice by the screening committee, despite his popular support, left many of them dejected.

“Some of us have decided to withhold our vote if we do not get the candidate of our choice,” the source said.

Saying Le Hunte has been working the constituency for the past two years like a shadow MP, the party insider said he completed several key projects which gained him overwhelming support. The insider said Le Hunte brought electricity to 50 families in Rancho Quemado. He also brought electricity at 7 Road where residents had been waiting for help since 1992. At Dalley Village, where he was born, Le Hunte has been helping to fix the Savannah and provide employment to youths.

Because of this, he had secured tremendous support, particularly from the youth.

She explained that every member of the Youth League, as well as party groups 19 and 25, were totally in favour of Le Hunte.

So far 6,000 signatures have been gathered from supporters showing favour for Le Hunte as a candidate.

The screening of the candidates was expected to run well after 8 pm.

Speaking at the screening, Le Hunte said he had no intention of bowing out of politics.

“I think the PNM has its process. The party will make a decision on all the candidates that are before them. The idea of bowing out of politics is definitely not on when you are the party’s vice chairman. So I will continue to be the vice chairman and I will continue to execute my ability as vice chairman of the party, ” Le Hunte said.

He also said it was laudable that the La Brea constituency had shown so much faith in him.

He added, “I note what the constituency is saying and I consider it laudable that they have faith in me, but there is a process in the party and the screening committee will take all that into consideration and make a decision based on what is best for the party. “

On May 16, Le Hunte resigned as public utilities minister because of “professional conflict on policy positions.”

He also resigned as vice-chairman of the Road Map to Recovery team that is developing the post-COVID19 development strategies for T&T.

Le Hunte later underscored his continuing commitment to the ruling PNM and said he will remain as the party’s vice-chairman.

Frmer netballer Bridget Adams was the only candidate screened for Mayaro, while Randy Sinanan was screened for Naparima.