Nov. 3, 2004 After gaining the seventh place seat on the 25th Legislature by a bare 19-vote margin, Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone has sailed into the 26th Legislature with a resounding 9,257 votes Tuesday, a 617-vote margin over traditional vote-leader, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg.
Malone gleaned the highest count in the territory, besting top St. Croix vote-getter Neville James' 7,068 by 2,189 votes. Malone, a native St. Thomian, will now lose his distinction as youngest member of the legislature to the 30-year-old senator-elect Juan Figueroa Serville.
Perhaps the biggest upset Tuesday was the apparent unseating of at-large Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd by his persistent challenger from St. John, Craig Barshinger, who has pursued Liburd's seat for the last five elections.
However, until the absentee votes are counted, the fat lady hasn't sung.
Liburd said Tuesday evening, "First of all, I want to thank all the people of the Virgin Islands who supported me, all those people behind the scenes on all three islands. And let me congratulate all the winners who were outright winners, and, lastly, I want to say that my race is not over for two weeks.
"In two weeks' time it will be over, and, until that time, the race is still on. There is a time for everything, like the Good Book tells you. I don't know now whether it is a time to serve, or a time to turn another page." (See "Barshinger Cautiously Celebrating Victory").
The only change in the St. Thomas Senate lineup is Sen. Carlton Dowe, who made a respectable showing with 5,286 votes but finished ninth. The new face in the St. Thomas-St. John district belongs to educator Liston Davis, who finished fifth with 6,356 votes.
The trend established in St. Croix's primary elections continued through the General Election. After booting out Democrat Sens. David Jones and Luther Renee in the primary elections, Crucian voters cleared out the rest of the Democrats – Sens. Douglas Canton and Emmett Hansen II – Tuesday.
Dowe and Hansen have passed meaningful legislation in their two terms in office. Dowe, most recently, sponsored the historic and long-awaited legislation establishing the V.I. Supreme Court, which the governor signed into law in October.
After some tough sledding, Hansen finally got his Home Ownership Act of 2004 approved by the full Senate overriding Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's veto. The legislation paves the way for affordable housing for middle-income families. Hansen also sponsored the Infrastructure Maintenance Act, which uses a portion of property taxes to pave roads, provide street lighting and install potable water lines.
A former fire chief, Dowe was instrumental in the re-opening of the Dorothea Fire Station. Dowe has been a strong supporter of capital projects, especially for school improvements. He also sponsored legislation directing that a percentage of revenues received by the V.I. Lottery from private contractors licensed to operate lottery games in the territory go into the public school Impress Funds. Hansen was philosophical Wednesday. "The people gave me the opportunity, and they have the right to take it back," he said. "I can take pride in knowing I am leaving with a 1,000 batting average. Everything I have proposed has become law."
However, no matter how you slice it, the people's decision cannot be easy for him to accept. "I've said before, in the absence of the EDC program, the only thing to move the economy forward is the Home Ownership initiative."
Hansen said he has had opportunities in the private sector and "I've been staving them off because I wanted to complete the home initiative. If the governor had signed it when he should have, it would have been nice to ride off into the sunset. He could have signed it with just a few fixes, not with calling a special session."
Turnbull recently signed the Supreme Court legislation with six pages of objections, forcing a possible special session to go over the legislation.
Hansen said he has been moved by calls he has received. "One thing, I've been very touched by conversations I've had today with Louis [Hill], White, Berry and Roosevelt [David]. They said, 'you were a damn good senator.'"
Dowe, though reluctant to talk at length, said he understands the process and he accepts it. He said, obviously, his pending court case had an influence on the outcome. Dowe, an independent, was a strong vote getter in the 2002 election, coming in second with 7,512 votes right after Donastorg who had 8,726.
Dowe is under a two-count indictment alleging that he doubled-billed the government for $75,208 in back pay for the period that he was director of the V.I. Fire Service. Dowe has said he is innocent.
Crucian top vote-getter James said Tuesday that he was not surprised at his election, but the numbers caught him off guard. "That was shocking," he said, "but much appreciated."
James said he was well aware of the Crucians' discontent with the 25th Legislature. "The people do not want to do business as usual," he said. "The island of St. Croix can no longer be sacrificed for the sake of any political organization."
James said he would work with the St. Thomas senators for help on St. Croix's problems. "We need help; we cannot do it alone," he said.
James, who is an Education Department property and procurement coordinator, said he has little political experience. However, his family has more than enough. His father is former-senator Randall "Doc" James, for whom the racetrack is named. His cousin is former senator and Lt. Gov. Luz James II.
Terrence "Positive" Nelson said Tuesday he, too, wasn't surprised at winning the election, but he was surprised he didn't come in first place.
Nelson, a well-known labor leader, president of the V.I. Labor Union, said he expects some challenges along the way, but adds he will be able to handle them. He said, "I can work with anyone, but what I will not be a part of is any corruption or misleading of the St. Croix people."
He said he ran because he is "sick and tired of the conditions in government, the lack of equipment in our schools and other agencies. A positive change will be realized."
Returning Sen. Usie Richards also said he was not surprised at the outcome of the election.
"The people in St. Croix were disgusted at the lack of a unified approach by the senators in addressing the needs of St. Croix," Richards said.
Richards said he has issued a call for a St. Croix Legislative Caucus to the Crucian senators. "I'm assuming that they are on the same page, and they have a willingness to work together."
Incumbent Sen. Ronald Russell isn't about to count his chicks just yet. "I am not celebrating yet," he said. "I'm still in the waiting mode." Russell finished with 4,567 votes, just 21 more than former-senator Adelbert Bryan.
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