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Meeting Called in Hopes of Salvaging Democratic Majority


Nov. 23, 2004 –– In hopes of salvaging a Democratic Senate majority, Glen Smith, St. Thomas-St. John Democratic Party district chair, has called a meeting for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Victor's New Hideout.
Smith said he has invited all the Democratic senators, who will be given time to address the body.
Unofficial reports identify the 26th majority as split, with only two Democrats –– Sens. Lorraine Berry and Shawn-Michael Malone. Berry is reportedly to be the Senate president with Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, who ran as an independent in 2004, as vice president. The rest of the group is either independent or Independent Citizens Movement. (See "Senators Still Jockeying for Position").
Smith said Tuesday, "Our position is that the Democrats are given a mandate. Due to the fact that 10 Democrats were elected, it is our expectation that the Democrats will organize the 26th Legislature.
"I'm keeping hope alive," Smith said, "that this will become a reality before Jan. 10 [the swearing in date for the new Legislature]. I am not looking to put blame on any single senator; the issue is the group. When Democrats unite, the people win. We want to get the Democrats together and have them do what they were mandated to do."
Smith added, "I know there are differences, but I remain optimistic that they can be settled in an amicable fashion."
There are indeed differences. Over the course of the last few days, infighting has reigned over the structuring of the new body. Thursday, Sen. Louis Hill was elected on a 6-4 vote by his fellow Democrats to lead the majority, with Sen. Ronald Russell as vice president.
What was true Thursday held no water on Monday, when reports indicated the new eight-member coalition had been formed.
Should that coalition remain intact, it will be the Virgin Islands' answer to the adage that "politics make strange bedfellows," with Berry as president and Sen. Celestino A. White Sr., Berry's nemesis for six of the seven terms in which both have served – always on opposite sides of the fence – as majority leader of the 26th Legislature.
The two have a long and antagonistic history, except in the 25th Legislature, when White, on many occasions, appeared to be courting his old enemy, generally with a certain amount of humor on his part and a certain amount of indulgence on Berry's.
Hill, who is from Dominica, expressed dismay Tuesday at what had transpired at an earlier meeting with comments from Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone. Hill said, "His words were that he does not believe the St. Thomas constituency will support another president from Dominica, and he wasn't going to 'spend the next two years defending another Dominican senator.'"
Hill said, "Clearly, these actions tarnish our image. It erodes public confidence in the institution."
Sen. Roosevelt David, a fourth-term senator and native of Nevis, expressed disappointment at the formation of the new majority. "In politics, you must always expect the unexpected," he said, "nothing surprises me."
And, David said, "nothing is set in stone until the Jan. 10 swearing-in ceremony." He illustrated his point with a story from his first term in the 22nd Legislature. "I was on a cruise with my wife," he said. "I thought everything was settled. We had already called a press conference, and suddenly I got a call on the public announce system that I was wanted on the phone. I had voted for Berry for president before I left and Alicia "Chucky" Hansen was supposed to be majority leader.
"It turned out that Berry and Hansen couldn't work together – Berry was on one side, and Hansen on the other, seven to seven, and I was the deciding vote," he said. " It had been less than a week, and the whole thing collapsed. I cast my vote with Berry."
David emphasized, "It's just people signing a petition until the resolution is voted on Jan. 10. It is my hope, and I believe the hope of the people, for a Democratic majority."
Both David and Hill said they will attend Tuesday night's meeting. "Absolutely, I will go," Hill said. "I don't know who will attend, but I will be there."
In answer to whether he would assume the minority chair if the blocs remain the same, Hill said
he didn't know. "We haven't sorted anything out yet. We are not at that point in our discussions."
David said, "Glen Smith is working very hard. They are trying their best because, in fact, this was basically a done deal last week where you have 10 natural Democrats elected. The electorate expects a Democrat majority bloc."

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