Political Allies Turn Rivals: VP Taylor, Rep. Cole Draw Battle Line in Bong Politics

Gbarnga, Bong County — Bong County lawmaker Marvin Cole has withdrawn his support from Melvin Salvage in the pending by-election in District Two, days after Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor endorsed the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) candidate.

The District Three lawmaker, through his Administrative Assistant J. Eldorado Kermue, called on supporters of the lawmaker in District Two to disengage from Salvage’s campaign due to an ongoing rift with Howard-Taylor.

“All militants and supporters of our political leader Hon. Marvin Cole are asked to abandon their ongoing campaign for Melvin Salvage in District Two. Anyone caught campaigning for Salvage would be dealt with,” Kermue posted.

Rep. Cole confirmed the decision to FrontPageAfrica Thursday, accusing supporters of the vice president of tarnishing his reputation while campaigning for Salvage. “Yes, I told Kermue to convey the message to all my supporters in District Two to disengage from campaigning for Melvin Salvage because supporters of the vice president have been tarnishing my reputation. I thought we were fronting for the same agenda (the Coalition for Democratic Change) but it seems they have something under their sleeves,” Rep. Cole said.

Philip Singbeh, deputy press secretary to the vice president who is campaigning for Salvage, rebuffed the lawmaker’s claims, adding that their aim is to ensure Salvage is elected. “We have no idea if what the lawmaker is saying. We have a task as supporters of the vice president and we are committed to that. I think what is going on is a mere distraction,” he said.

In recent weeks, supporters of the vice president and Rep. Cole have taken to social media to trade insults at each other, a situation that prompted a reconciliatory meeting between Howard-Taylor and the lawmaker.

Asked about the outcome of the meeting, Howard-Taylor said: “I have called on my supporters to stop the unnecessary fight on social media and let’s unite to ensure Salvage is elected lawmaker in the pending by-election. Our energy should be directed at making Salvage lawmaker of District Two,” Howard-Taylor said during her appearance on Radio Gbarnga, a local radio station in Bong County.

Rep. Cole, a former staffer of Howard-Taylor during her tenure as senator of Bong County, have been at odds with the vice president since his election as lawmaker in 2017. He has been accused of betraying the vice president during her reported conflict with President George Weah.

Already, speculations are rife in District Three that Howard-Taylor will not support the lawmaker’s re-election bid in 2023 amid the representative ambition of her key allies to contest against the lawmaker in 2023.

Asked if she would support Rep. Cole in 2023 like she did in 2017, Howard-Taylor answered: “2023 is too far to make a commitment to anyone now. Our focus is on the pending by-election,” she said.

Rep. Cole’s withdrawal of support for Salvage could be a blow, considering the timing to the November 16 by-election and the huge influence he commands in District Two. Contesting in the 2014 by-election, Rep. Cole garnered over five thousand votes in the district and was key for the CDC to win the district in both first and second rounds of the 2017 presidential elections.

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