in a campaign mode
By John Collins (1)
for November elections for governor, lieutenant governor, 15 senators and
Delegate to Congress heating up.
November 5 voters in the neighbouring U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) go to the polls
for the ninth time to elect a governor and lieutenant governor to lead the
territory for the next four years.
present governor, educator Charles Wesley Turnbull, a Democrat,
is nearing the completion of his first term and is already opposed by six
other candidates. At present all of his opponents have declared their intentions
to run as independents with the exception of a lone Republican candidate,
Michael Bornn, and Turnbull’s lieutenant governor, Gerard Luz James II.
like Turnbull, ran as a Democrat four years ago. A former St. Croix undertaker,
James has broken with Turnbull and announced his candidacy and his running mate
but has not decided whether he will run as a Democrat or as an independent. A
Democratic primary, if held, would be in September. If James decides to enter it
he would be pitted against his former running mate.
the political situation in the USVI there are a number of factors which it is
important to take into account regarding the gubernatorial elections. Virgin
Islanders were granted the right to elect their own governors and lieutenant
governors by the U.S. Congress in 1969 and the first election was held in 1970.
With one exception, if the gubernatorial candidate is from St. Croix, by
tradition the running mate is from St. Thomas or vice versa. For example,
Turnbull is from St. Thomas, James is from St. Croix.
though a lot of thought goes into the selection of the teams that end up running
together, there is a definite peculiarity in the mix because there have been a
number of teams that have ended up divided. The estrangement between Turnbull
and James also occurred between former Gov. Roy Schneider and his Lt. Gov.
Kenneth Mapp and on other occasions before them.
balance between the two major islands, while still important, is further
complicated today by the complex mosaic the USVI have become with the influx
during the last four decades of continental Americans, large numbers of West
Indians from virtually every island state in the region, and then smaller
communities of Arabs, East Indians and even French, among others.
of Puerto Ricans in the USVI
of Puerto Ricans now also live in the USVI, mainly on St. Croix, and they
descend from migrant workers who began going to St. Croix as early as the 1920s.
One of them, former Governor Juan Luis was born in Vieques and went to St. Croix
as a child. In recent years other Latinos, particularly from the Dominican
Republic, have taken up residence in the both major islands. Only one of the 12
candidates for the two highest offices on Nov. 5 are Latino – Miguel A.
result of increasing naturalizations the roles of some of these various groups
has increased and they are appealed to by candidates more and more. A number of
naturalized citizens from other islands have been elected to the territorial
Legislature in recent years.
last USVI gubernatorial election in 1998 (CB Nov. 19, 1998 & Jan. 14, 1999)
there was an upset with Turnbull and James getting 59% of the vote and ousting
the preceding Gov. Roy Schneider and his running mate who only got 41%. Some
were not surprised with the upset because it reflected the widespread discontent
of the electorate with the Schneider style of governance.
around it is much more complicated because there are six candidates challenging
Turnbull. A number of observers feel this also reflects growing discontent of
the electorate with the massive problems facing the territory as well as the
growing questioning of Turnbull’s managerial capacity.
number of keen observers of the USVI political scene are convinced that Turnbull
faces the major challenge from respected St. Thomas businessman John de Jongh, a
former president of the Chamber of Commerce and a former Commissioner of
Finance. Other candidates getting high marks are Michael Bornn, the lone
Republican, and Dr. Cora Christian of St. Croix, a physician, former assistant
Commissioner of Health and the most recent president of the Caribbean Studies
they are conducting credible campaigns, neither Lt. Gov. James or former Sen..
Lloyd Williams are viewed as having
much of a chance.
indications are that a Democratic primary in September is unlikely, what could
happen on Nov. 5, as has happened several times before, is that no candidate
will get the required 50%+1 and thus trigger a run-off two weeks later between
the top two vote getters.
elections are an indication of what occurs then during those two weeks leading
up to the runoff is that most of the losing candidates could throw their support
to the top two while others could decline to endorse neither.
performance a big issue
of government employees, once one-third of the work force of 39,000, have
contracted under Turnbull. While some say performance of government has
improved, others point to a bloated patronage with Turnbull getting particular
criticism for putting friends and relatives on the payroll and giving them
handsome increases in pay, in some cases by over $20,000 a year.
has tightened up the fiscal situation in the government somewhat but he still
has a massive $1.3 billion indebtedness he inherited. He is still trying to get
the federal government to forgive several loans, in the hundreds of million of
dollars, in connection with hurricane relief provided.
Turnbull administration is increasingly perceived as anti-business both by local
business people as well as by outside investors and those considering investing
in the territory. Some business people complain particularly about the hostility
to businessin the Legislature and charge in emboldens some in the bureaucracy to
be less than accommodating to business people. While some say it has declined
slightly, others say the permit and licensing process can sometimes be a
problems concerning residents are the economy, education and crime. The economy
is concentrated in tourism which creates a particular problem for Turnbull on
St. Croix since major cruise lines have abandoned that island complaining about
crime. St. Thomas, on the other hand, is as popular as ever with the cruise
lines and on some days residents complain Main Street is too crowded.
is a bid issue in the campaign because the Middle States Association of
Secondary Schools took away the accreditation of the territory’s three public
schools which is viewed as an embarrassment to Turnbull, an educator and a
former Commissioner of Education. When the accreditation was yanked, Turnbull
fired his commissioner, also an educator.
crime is a problem on St. Croix because of the negative impact it has had on
that island’s faltering tourism, it is a problem on both St. Thomas and St.
John as well and concerns both residents and visitors alike.
1 approaches Virgin Islanders are getting ready to enter the three month
campaign prepared for large doses of political rhetoric. Although voter
participation in 1998 was lower than usual, predictions are that this November,
given the large number of candidates, that turn out could again exceed the
comprise 132 square miles and have a population of 110,000 inhabitants.
IN USVI NOVEMBER 5, 2002 ELECTIONS
Cora Christian (Independent)
Luz James II (?)
W. Turnbull (Democrat)
L. Williams (Ind.)
A. Camacho (Ind.)
Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read
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