Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
A charity worker who has faced abuse for being gay and disabled has been selected at the Liberal Democrat candidate for the Islwyn constituency in the Senedd election.
Oliver Townsend, 33, who has a decade of experience working for charities in social care, homelessness and mental health, said he plans to bring his knowledge of those issues to to the table.
“I am standing as a different candidate, for a different choice,” he said.
“Islwyn needs fresh ideas, and it is vital we listen to all voices in this election, not just those that get heard all the time.
“I am a gay and disabled man, and it has taken me a long time for me to say that so openly.
“I’m a fighter, having had to struggle with those labels for years. I’m no stranger to abuse or ignorance, and that’s made me see life from a whole different place.”
Mr Townsend says he will make housing, poverty, education, and the NHS the central platform of his campaign.
“I have spent a lot of my life in hospital, and so I know how important it is to people,” he added.
“Without the NHS, my life would be very different, so I want the people of Islwyn to know that I would be their NHS champion – no question about that.”
Mr Townsend says that with poverty on the rise, “a new voice has never been more important”.
Welsh Liberal Democrat regional campaigner, Jo Watkins, said: “I can’t wait to take the fight to the other parties with our strong regional team, including Oliver in Islwyn.”
Islwyn is currently represented in the Senedd by Labour’s Rhianon Passmore.
Blackwood councillor Rhys Mills has also been previously announced as the Plaid Cymru candidate for Islwyn in the elections.