Nov. 23, 2004 It's official Sen. Lorraine Berry is president of the 26th Legislature, Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste is vice president and Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. is majority leader of the newly formed majority coalition.
It's a slim majority eight members. And, the fat lady hasn't sung until a resolution is signed in the first session of the 26th Legislature on Jan. 10, 2005.
White sent out a press release Tuesday evening announcing the formation of a coalition, but named no officers. A copy of the resolution to be presented in the January session bore the signatures of Sens. Berry, Liston Davis, Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence Nelson, Usie Richards and White.
Berry confirmed the officers by phone Tuesday evening. And she firmly defended her stance in breaking from the Democratic majority.
"We must be willing," she said, "to jettison party labels, partisanship and personal animosities. I think it is high time to move beyond partisanship, excessive insularism and personalism. There comes a time when political leaders must do what is wise to have all parties and all ideologies represented in a majority as a consensus coalition."
Berry noted that she presided over a non-partisan coalition when she was president of the 22nd Legislature. "That consisted of Democrats, Republicans and independents, and we worked well together."
Reflecting on recent history, Berry said, "Despite the common label we had in this [25th] Legislature of being Democratic, there was no political consensus to advance public policy. The governor in November stated he could not endorse a Democratic slate the titular head of the party couldn't endorse!"
She continued, "When we ran in 2002, we campaigned under a one-shot strategy, but this  election had no slate, no common headquarters or even a strategy. Elected leaders were running a smear campaign against us."
Berry said the new group is positive. "We are an alternative to that 10-member majority. We are seeking all groups to work with. Since the people have selected people from different backgrounds to be in the Legislature, we will bring all the ideologies. There is too much politicking," she said, "with people setting up gubernatorial teams for 2006. That shouldn't be interfering with our decisions."
White said in his release, and Berry reiterated Tuesday evening, that further leadership positions and committee assignments would be announced soon. Berry said they would be announced at a press conference, probably after the Thanksgiving holiday.
White said in his release that "an open invitation has already been verbally extended for additional senators and senators-elect to become part of this newly-formed majority."
On another issue, Berry said Tuesday that having Richards in her majority (Berry is chairing the Ethical Conduct Committee looking into sexual harassment charges brought against him by a female Senate employee) would pose no conflict of interest. "I have the ability, just like Jn Baptiste [also a committee member], to do what is right, and it has nothing to do with the organization of the Legislature. (See "Senate Committee Meets to Discuss Harassment Claim"). The committee has several options, should it decide to censure Richards. Should the committee recommend expulsion, it would require 10 votes by the Legislature.
Berry said she sent James Francis, her chief of staff, to the Democratic party meeting Tuesday evening at Victor's New Hideout on St. Thomas. "I'm not feeling up to par," she said, "Mr. Francis is representing me." (See "Meeting Called in Hopes of Salvaging Democratic Majority").
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