US Virgin Islands get ready to elect governor
In November, 2018, 36 states and three United States territories will hold gubernatorial elections. This includes the unincorporated US territory of the Virgin Islands. The territory first gained the right to vote for their governor in 1970, and has elected their governor every four years since.
The primary elections for the US Virgin Islands are set to take place on August 4, 2018, and early voting began on July 14. The islands currently have a total of just under 50,000 registered voters (23,784 from St. Croix, 1,999 from St. John, and 24,005 from St. Thomas) out of an estimated 78,000 citizens who are eligible to vote. Following the primary elections, the general election will take place on Tuesday, November 6, followed closely by the gubernatorial runoff election on Tuesday, November 20. Polling will take place from 7:00am-7:00 pm at Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, St. Croix Educational Complex, Juanita Gardin Elementary School, DC Canagata Ball Park, and Ricardo Richards Elementary School.
Each gubernatorial candidate has a running companion referred to as the candidate for lieutenant governor. The governor and lieutenant governor run as a pair, the same structure used for the election of the president and vice president of the mainland US. Competing in the primary elections are 10 candidates, each hailing from very different backgrounds. Although the US Virgin Islands have 3 official political parties (Democratic, Republican, and the Independent Citizens Movement Party) all of the gubernatorial candidates are either democrats or have no party affiliation (independent). The territory’s current governor, Kenneth Mapp, is the eighth governor of the US Virgin Islands, and is an independent. Mapp was elected in 2014, and because the voting rules in the territory limit governors to two four-year terms, is eligible for reelection. Out of the remaining 9 candidates, 3 are democrats and 6 have no party affiliation.
The independent candidates running for governor of the US Virgin Islands include: sitting governor Kenneth “Ken” Mapp, former island general attorney Soraya Diase Coffelt, former island Senator Adlah A. “Foncie” Donastorg, current island senators Positive T.A. Nelson and Janette Millin Young, as well as Warren Mosler and Moleto A. Smith Jr.
The three remaining candidates, all democrats, held a democratic forum on Tuesday July 17. The forum aired on the island’s WTJX radio and TV stations and was held in order to provide candidates with an “uncluttered setting” in which to discuss issues and set facts apart from point of view, a line that has becomes hard to determine due to the rise of social media and its role in politics. Democratic gubernatorial candidates include: former island labor commissioner Albert J. Bryan Jr., former island finance commissioner Angel J. Dawson, and former island senator Allison “Allie” Petrus. Each candidate, or their corresponding lieutenant governor, shared their take on a slew of issues facing the US Virgin Islands. Discussion topics of the forum included healthcare, plans to combat crime on the islands, proposals to maintain the Government Employees’ Retirement System, and plans and proposals for retaining more educators and educated youth on the islands that would otherwise move to the mainland United States. You can watch the full forum here.
A local newsource, The St. Thomas Source, conducted a series of surveys with the primary candidates. Each candidate was sent the same set of questions covering topics from the legalization of marijuana to hurricane preparation to transparency in government. The answers given by the candidates were then published by The St. Thomas Source in a series of articles entitled “What the Candidates Say”. Candidates had varying approaches to answering these questions, some wrote long, detailed descriptions of their plans and motives, others opted for short, concise answers, and still others chose not to complete the survey at all**. Currently, the candidates to have completed the survey are Angel Dawson, Warren Mosler, Moleto Smith, Albert Bryan, and Soraya Diase Coffelt. As varied as their answering styles were, there was much agreement between candidates on future courses of action for the US Virgin Islands. Each candidate agrees that increasing tourism is a necessary objective to overcome some of the territory’s economic issues and that incentivizing young professionals and educators to remain on the islands could lead to economic growth long term. On the other hand, candidates disagree on whether or not marijuana should be legalized (3 in support, 1 against, 1 neutral, leaning in support) and the legitimacy of climate change. You can read the candidates complete survey answers by following the links below.
As of the writing of this article, there are no clear favorites for the 2018 gubernatorial primary elections.