V.I. gubernatorial candidates will not have to name a running mate for the lieutenant governor’s position until after partisan primary elections are over, if a bill debated by the V.I. Legislature’s Government Operations and Housing Committee Monday becomes law. [30-0281]
Senators voted to hold the bill in committee while amendments are researched and drafted.
Sen. Clifford Graham, who sponsored the bill, said the goal was to make it easier for gubernatorial candidates to pick a highly qualified and popular lieutenant governor candidate.
"The genesis of this bill (was) my observation of what is done every four years here in the Virgin Islands, electing the governor and lieutenant governor," Graham said.
Before partisan primaries, every party and independent candidate for governor has to have a running mate. So there are often six or seven candidates at first, before it is narrowed down to two or three.
Since each of them must have a lieutenant governor on the ticket, top options may be committed to other nominees, giving the winning candidate a smaller range of options. "What this has done is dilute the potential pool of candidates," Graham said.
St. Croix Board of Elections member Raymond Williams and St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections chair Arturo Watlington Jr. both testified against the measure, saying it would confuse voters who like to vote for a ticket.
"Most people I have talked to are very comfortable with a team and they want to know who the other person is before they lend their support," said Watlington. "People tell me we don’t want any surprises. We want to know who the governor and lieutenant governor candidates are before we lend our support," he said.
Watlington also said the U.S. Revised Organic Act would have to be amended by Congress first, because it lays out the basic procedures for gubernatorial elections.
Sen. Judi Buckley pointed out that U.S. presidential candidates debate and run in primaries first, then the party nominee chooses his or her own running mate at the national party convention.
Other senators raised concerns about some of the dates in the bill and other technical issues. Graham moved to hold it in committee for amendment.
Voting to hold the bill were: Graham, Sens. Craig Barshinger, Donald Cole, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen and Diane Capehart. There was no opposition. Buckley and Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson were absent at the time of the vote.
In the morning, the Senate held a ceremony to swear in the members of the Legislative Youth Advisory Commission; a 16-member panel representing young people from throughout the territory, plus four members of the Senate, who would sit on the body as ex officio members. The body, created by legislation sponsored by Nelson in 2011, is to meet several times a year and advise the Legislature on issues affecting youth. (See related link below)