Hosted by the nonprofit organization Our Town Frederiksted, the event had all the things one would expect in the middle of an election season. Participants offered their solutions to the territory’s biggest problems, touted their accomplishments and told why they were best for the job. Some evaded questions posed by the moderator, Meredith Nielsen, and some took direct shots at their fellow candidates.
During the nearly two-hour forum, questions covered a plethora of topics: federal programs to revive the economy, how to relax fishing and EPA regulations, how to solve the energy crisis, how to improve the lives of veterans, and what to do about all the guns and drugs, and the crime associated with both that’s recently plagued the islands.
“We have a serious violent crime, gun and drug problem in the territory,” said current Delegate Donna Christensen in reference to legislation she helped sponsor. “We are asking for more federal support for our local police to keep the guns and drugs out of our territory.”
Christensen has served as delegate the last 16 years. The Democrat started out the night discussing her long history with Frederiksted, first as a physician and then as a candidate, even noting her very first campaign announcement came there. She wasted no time then diving into perhaps the biggest issue currently affecting the territory, the dismal economic situation.
“The entire territory is in an economic crisis, St. Croix more so than anywhere else,” Christensen said. “But of course Frederiksted has been distressed for a very, very long time.”
Christensen then touted her accomplishments in the wake of the crisis, citing her office as the reason a $7.8 million National Emergency Grant was awarded to the Department of Labor for training after Hovensa’s closing. She then segued from the territory’s economic crisis to energy, and said besides getting more renewable energy into the territory in the long-run, her office was also trying to see if anything could be done in terms of relief in the interim.
Republican candidate Holland Redfield, a veteran of six V.I. legislatures, called the crisis the “perfect manmade storm,” and said he’d work across the partisan aisle, like he had his entire career, to solve the islands’ most pressing problems.
“I’m what you’d call a pragmatic Republican,” Redfield said, adding that Republican control of Congress, which wouldn’t change, was one of the reasons he was best suited to serve as the territory’s delegate.
While both Christesen and Redfield would later say that to get anything done in Washington, D.C., you had to belong to a major party, Independent candidate Warren Mosler took exception with that early on.
Mosler said his candidacy as an Independent coupled with his 40 years of successful financial and economics work, is exactly what the territory now needs.
“I can be effective as an Independent and work with both parties. What’s happened today in Congress is both parties are at war with each other,” Mosler said. “They’ve shut each other out. They’ve cut each other off. They will not accept ideas from the other party and, in fact, they’ll go as far as they can to discredit each other.”
Mosler then cited his own work with both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Independent candidate Norma Pickard Samuel said she was reluctant to reenter politics because of the culture that surrounded it, especially in the Virgin Islands. “I really don’t like politics,” Pickard Samuel said. “People would do almost just anything for a vote: lie, steal, cheat, you know? It’s not pretty here.”
She said the territory’s problems, specifically the economy and energy, had been brewing for many years. “What we don’t have is foresight. We are always scrambling in times of emergency,” Pickard Samuel said. “We don’t like to prepare and we don’t prepare for the future. I’d warned for six to eight months that Hovensa was closing.”
“We should have been diversifying our economy for a long time,” she later added. “Foresight is what we lack and that is what we need in this community.”
Election Day is Nov. 6. Candidate Guillaume Mimoun was not in attendance.