March 26, 2006 — Strengthening the local Democratic Party while improving health care, education, the environment and the territory's business climate were among the top priorities for some of this year's gubernatorial and senatorial hopefuls, who gave brief campaign speeches to about 40 members of the St. Thomas-St. John district Democratic Party early Saturday morning.
Brief but passionate remarks were also given by Sens. Roosevelt C. David and Louis P. Hill, who spoke about economic development issues such as bringing outside investment into the territory, enforcing measures to protect employee benefits and regulating government salaries.
On the topic of economic development, David spoke about an amendment passed last year by the Senate giving the V.I. government authority to fix roads and purchase new ferryboats and Vitran buses using GARVEE bond proceeds, and further discussed the upcoming opening of the Enighed Pond project on St. John. "The role of the Senate is to pass legislation for an effective form of government," he said. "Unless we create economic activity, nothing will happen."
Hill touched on more controversial issues, such as a bill he recently sponsored prohibiting utilities regulated by the Public Services Commission from seeking Economic Development Commission benefits (See "Bill Denying EDC Benefits to Utilities Fails to Gain Approval").
"I'm disappointed the Senate didn't pass the EDC bill," he said. "But we need to continue that struggle because the money saved from these tax benefits should be going to the people of the territory, instead of buying super-sized jets for these companies to fly around the world."
While talking about the strength of the Democratic Party, Hill said he was surprised by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's nomination of Julio A. Brady for a position on the V.I. Superior Court. "The current democratic governor selected the state chair of the Republican Party for judgeship – I don't know in what other place that would happen," he said. "Especially since this and other issues have come up that would compromise his position as a judge."
Hill was not specific, but one source who did not want to be named, said part of the problem with Brady is the controversy surrounding his 1997 decision to drop all charges against then Sen. Adelbert M. Bryan, who shot and killed his son.
Others have had concerns relative to Brady's close relationship with Innovative Communications Corp., which is mired in lawsuits in the territory and elsewhere. Brady has served as the corporation's attorney for many years.
Furthermore, Hill spoke about forming a wage commission composed of representatives from both public and private sectors which would be responsible for determining the salaries of government employees based on statistics, such as the current economic climate, the amount of revenues coming into the territory and the cost of living in the Virgin Islands.
"I believe we're gong to have a Democratic majority in the 27th Legislature," Hill added at the end of his speech.
Other potential senatorial candidates — Rev. Toi Barbel, Horace T. Brooks, Carla Joseph, Shirley Sadler, Elsie Thomas-Trotman and Alvin Williams — also spoke Saturday about their platforms, which ranged from health care and education to environmental protection.
Sadler said that if elected, she would concentrate on working with the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority to bring down residents' electric bills.
When discussing the state of health care in the territory, Barbel — vice chair of the State Democratic Party and chaplain at Schneider Regional Medical Center — said she would be taking a careful look at the much-debated universal health insurance bill, which is currently pending in the Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services. "I do support some sections of the bill," Barbel said after the meeting. "But as it is right now, I think small businesses stand to be adversely affected by the bill, and that's something that we need to work on."
Barbel further stated that she would be looking into initiatives to secure more funding for uninsured residents and would be promoting and organizing more fund-raising activities for the Democratic Party. "I am your spiritual catalyst for change," she said to the audience at the end of her speech. "And the time has come for the silent majority to rise to the occasion as a force [to be] reckoned with."
Gubernatorial hopeful Eldridge St. Claire Tobias, the only gubernatorial candidate speaking at Saturday's meeting, galvanized the audience by stating, "Deep in my heart, I know I am the governor – I am a candidate, and I'm serious about it. I've done a lot for the V.I., more than any elected member of the government, and I know I'm the best person for the job because I have no connections, am not a messenger boy, and I have a mind of my own."
Tobias further said that he is "not afraid of anyone" and is more of a leader than a follower. "I'm going to rip them all up," he added. "Just wait until you hear from me – just wait."
Other potential Democratic candidates announced on Saturday were:
–Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards
–John P. deJongh Jr.
–St. Thomas Administrator James O'Bryan
–Judge Edgar Ross
–Sen. Lorraine L. Berry
–Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone
–Elsie V. Thomas-Trotman
"Oh, the political pots are starting to boil now," Glen J. Smith, state chair of the local Democratic Party, joked after announcing the potential candidates. "And since all of these candidates are equally qualified for the positions, all I have to say is that we as a party have to work hard to make sure that the winner takes all."
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