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HomeNewsLocal newsV.I. Republicans Gearing Up for Third-in-Nation Caucus Feb. 8

V.I. Republicans Gearing Up for Third-in-Nation Caucus Feb. 8

Virgin Islands Republicans are in a unique position to decide the campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination when they caucus Feb. 8, party officials said this week in announcing a slate of events ahead of the vote. They hinted there could even be personal appearances by candidates Nikki Haley and Donald Trump.

Party brass have said that holding the caucus on Feb. 8 — after Iowa and New Hampshire but ahead of Super Tuesday on March 5, when the greatest number of states hold their primary elections and caucuses — will leverage the political influence of the USVI, which has six delegates.

That’s because Iowa and New Hampshire award their delegates proportionately, so it’s entirely possible that the winner of the third-in-the-nation contest in the Virgin Islands will get more delegates than those two contests.

While unable to vote for president in the General Election, V.I. Republicans fully and equally participate in the nomination phase of the campaign, the party noted in a press release.

Of the eight presidential candidates who filed and qualified for the caucus ballot, with each paying a $20,000 fee, only Trump, Haley and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are still in the race. While no longer running, Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and Perry Johnson will remain on the ballot, according to a final listing released by the party.

With Trump having won Iowa, all eyes are now on New Hampshire with its primary on Tuesday, said Gordon Ackley, chairman of the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands.

“If President Trump wins New Hampshire, then the Virgin Islands as the next contest will confirm him as the nominee and signify that the race is effectively over,” said Ackley. “Conversely, if there’s a split decision and someone other than Trump wins New Hampshire then the Virgin Islands will be the first front in what will surely be a protracted campaign for every delegate to the nominating convention in Milwaukee.”

Under either scenario, the Virgin Islands is a winner, said Ackley, because the territory has seen considerable attention from the campaigns so far.

DeSantis virtually headlined a reception on St. Thomas in October that was attended by independent V.I. Sen. Alma Francis Heyliger.

Dr. Ben Carson, a first-term Trump cabinet secretary, sparred with DeSantis surrogate Ken Cuccinelli, a former Virginia attorney general and deputy secretary of Homeland Security under Trump, and Haley senior adviser Rick Wiley during a Republican State Committee meeting in November.

In December, Florida Congressman Byron Donalds and South Carolina Congressman Ralph Norman respectively stumped for Trump and Haley on St. Thomas while Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo was on St. Croix and St. Thomas for DeSantis.

The territorial GOP is now in conversations with the Trump and Haley campaigns to organize events on St. Croix and St. Thomas in the days after New Hampshire’s primary, party officials said.

“Basically, we’re on the political equivalent of war footing,” said Republican Party in the Virgin Islands executive director Dennis Lennox. “We expect major names to be here with a day or two’s notice.”

Receptions are being planned on St. Croix and St. Thomas to accommodate likely campaigners. The Republican State Committee has also scheduled Jan. 24 and 31 meetings that will be open to all Republican voters by Zoom in anticipation of speakers appearing remotely.

Congressman Wesley Hunt of Texas is being sent to the Virgin Islands by Trump to personally represent him and will headline events on Jan. 26 on St. Thomas and Jan. 27 on St. Croix, said Ackley. 

Hunt graduated from West Point and served in the Army for eight years, reaching the rank of captain. In Congress, he is a member of the House committee with jurisdiction over the Virgin Islands and other U.S. territories.

“Congressman Hunt’s visit on behalf of Donald Trump shows how important the Virgin Islands caucus is in the overall 2024 campaign,” Ackley said. “We have a unique opportunity to make our voice heard.”

“Depending on what happens we very well could see Ambassador Haley or President Trump personally fly down,” said Lennox. “We know that is being discussed at the highest levels of the campaigns.”

Republicans aren’t estimating voter turnout at the caucus — there are 1,107 registered party members in the USVI, according to the Elections System — though party officials say one campaign or super PAC has done at least one poll and there are campaign mailers and text message blasts dropping.

In addition to a direct vote for president, the caucus will serve as the regularly scheduled election for most V.I. Republican party offices. In the only contested race, April Newland, the party’s current vice chairman, and Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht, the current national committeewoman, are vying for national committeewoman, according to Lennox.

The territory’s six delegates and six alternates to the 2024 Republican National Convention will be selected after the caucus. Anyone interested in applying to be delegate or alternate must apply before Jan. 31. An application form is available at www.republicanpartyinthevirginislands.com.

Voting in the caucus will be in-person with no absentee ballots available. Voting locations and hours are as follows:

St. Croix: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Atlantic at the La Reine Chicken Shack, Christiansted.

St. John: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Atlantic at the Lovango Rum Bar, Cruz Bay.

St. Thomas: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Atlantic at Bluebeard’s Castle, Estate Taarneberg, Charlotte Amalie.

Republicans are also hosting an election night party at the Morningstar Buoy Haus Beach Resort in Frenchman’s Reef on St. Thomas. Admission is free and doors open at 6:30 p.m. Several national media outlets are expected to cover the caucus live from the party, according to V.I. GOP officials.

— Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected to say that Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht is the current national committeewoman. It incorrectly stated that she was a former national committeewoman.

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