Democrat challenger Albert Bryan’s lead over independent incumbent Ken Mapp increased a little as the Board of Elections counted a portion of absentee and provisional ballots Thursday.
With a crowded field of candidates, the widening gap still leaves both short of 40 percent and far short of the 50 percent needed to avoid the Nov. 20 runoff. The widening lead is still smaller than the counts for the third, fourth or fifth place finisher, so how those voters go in the runoff will determine who is the next governor.
While vote tallies rose a little, there were no surprises or changes among the senatorial, Education Board and Elections Board races.
The board counted mailed in and walk-in absentee ballots received as of Nov. 8 as well as St. Croix district provisional ballots.
As of Thursday evening, Bryan had 9,539 votes and 37.93 percent, to Mapp’s 8,479 and 33.71 percent. That’s a difference of 1,060 votes. On election night, late night figures had Bryan up by 994 votes.
Third-place finisher Adlah “Foncie” Donastorg received 4,116 votes, or 6.36 percent of voters. If they strongly support one candidate over the other, that is more than enough to sway the election.
Everyone who voted for Donastorg in effect voted against the incumbent, which might indicate they would prefer the challenger. But they also voted for an independent rather than a democrat. Fourth-place finisher, independent Warren Mosler is now at 1,188 votes, or 4.66 percent. If those voters are relatively evenly split, that is still enough to overcome Bryan’s lead- or cement it in place, depending on how they swing. The same goes for fifth-place independent Soraya Diase Coffelt’s 1,173 votes. So while Bryan’s widening lead may be suggestive, this race can still easily go either way.
With an electoral system in which the top seven vote winners are seated in each district and every voter picks eight senators, it is difficult to divine what the vote tallies signify.
Democrats swept the field. But equally significant, the top vote winners for each district for senator and for the at-large senator are all people who have never served in the office before, suggesting voters are seeking change.
On St. Croix, both the number one and number two vote winners; democrats Alicia Barnes and Allison Degazon, are new to the Legislature, as is no. 4 vote winner Javan James. Seventh-place finisher Oakland Benta, a former St. Croix police chief, is new to the Legislature too. Other former members did not make it back, although Kenneth Gittens, who lost his seat in the last election, is returning for the 33rd Legislature.
On St. Thomas, first place finisher Donna Frett-Gregory, a former commissioner of education, is new to elected office. Athneil “Bobby” Thomas, in third-place, has run before but never won.
Thirteen of the 15 new and reelected senators are democrats. Dwayne DeGraff and Janelle Sarauw are the only independents in the new Legislature. No other parties are represented. At the same time, partisanship does not necessarily mean much in the Legislature. There is a long history of governing majorities containing democrats and independents, as well as democrats outside a governing majority comprised chiefly of democrats. Sarauw was a member of the majority in the 32nd Legislature, as a freshman senator.
Full results can be seen at: vivote.gov.