Congresswoman Donna Christensen defended her seat against challenger Stacie Plaskett Saturday night in an election that proved not as harsh on incumbents as some had expected.
As the vote count stood at the end of Saturday night, three of the four incumbent senators had gained enough votes to win their party's nomination and go on to the general election, but complications with the counting of paper ballots on St. Thomas left Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve uncertain of his fate.
In the race for the senator-at-large nomination, Sen. Craig W. Barshinger defeated a field of three challengers by a large margin. Barshinger gathered 2,154 votes, 600 more than Andrew Rutnik, his nearest competitor.
In the St. Thomas/St. John District Democratic primary, Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone and Janette Millin Young each claimed one of their party's seven nominations, finishing second and fifth in the race respectively.
Sen. Patrick Simeon Sprauve is currently in eighth with 1,266 votes, just 22 votes behind Jean Anthony Forde, who currently holds the final nomination.
The race cannot be called at this time because election officials on St. Thomas decided not to count their paper ballots Saturday night. This is the first election since the island transitioned to electronic voting machines in which alternative paper ballots have been offered to voters. Members of the Election Systems of the Virgin Islands expressed concern before the election about how the new paper ballot system would be implemented and how much time it might take to count all of the votes.
Alecia M. Wells, a member of the St. Thomas board of elections, said the ballots would be counted, "sometime this weekend, but not tonight." At the time of the interview, she could not give a firm number of how many paper ballots had been cast in the district.
Wells said the staff had simply reached the limit of what it could do.
"Everybody's exhausted," she said. "We've been up since four this morning and we were at the office last night until 10 p.m. And we've been to every single poll today and dealing with all the other things."
She added that she wanted the staff to be "fresh" when they tackled the paper ballots.
Sen. Sprauve did not comment on the board's decision directly in comments made after the election results were released, but said he remained optimistic that when the ballots were counted, he would secure a nomination.
"If it's God's will, I'll be there," he said. "I'll be there with the people's will."
Election officials on St. Croix decided to count their paper ballots for public office only. There were no senatorial, board of election or board of education primaries on the island this year, so the only public offices on the ballot were delegate to Congress and senator-at-large. The paper ballots for party positions will be counted on Monday.
The primary election was the first test of just how high anti-incumbent sentiment is running in the territory after two turbulent years that saw the closure of Hovensa, the federal audit scandal and a continual rise in energy prices.
At her victory rally, Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen said she felt the impact of people's disaffection with the government.
"Had I not been in that atmosphere, I think I would have had a greater win," she said.
Her challenger, Stacie Plaskett, ran on a platform of change. She secured 2,653 votes, or 42.5 percent, to Christensen's 3,589.
After the results were announced, Plaskett released a statement thanking her supporters and saying she was proud of what her campaign accomplished.
"I believe we gave a tremendous and successful challenge to the delegate," she said, adding that she would speak to her family and supporters before deciding her next career move, but promising to stay active in Virgin Island politics.
"I'm going to continue to be vigilant on behalf of the people of the Virgin Islands," she said.
Christensen also thanked her staff and supporters and told them she was already on her way back to work. She leaves for Memphis, Tenn., Sunday for a dedication ceremony and is then back in Washington on Monday.
Christensen will face Republican Holland L. Redfield II in the general election. Redfield, a former senator and longtime talk radio host in the territory, easily beat his opponent, Vincent E. Danet, in the Republican primary with 72.5 percent of the vote.
As the vote stood at the end of counting Saturday night:
• The seven Democratic nominees for senator from the St. Thomas/St. John district are Clifford Graham with 2,434 votes, Shawn-Michael Malone with 1,944 votes, Myron D. Jackson with 1, 854 votes, Clarence Payne with 1,735 votes, Janette Millin Young with 1,730 votes, Donald Cole with 1,366 votes and Jean Anthony Forde with 1,288 votes.
• The three Democratic nominees for the board of election from the St. Thomas/St. John district are Arturo Watlington, Jr. with 1,331 votes, Yvonne Solomon Freeman with 596 votes and Edwardo Carmona, Sr. with 327 votes.
• The four Democratic nominees for the board of education from the St. Thomas/St. John district are Judy M. Gomez with 1,589 votes, Debra Smith-Watlington with 1,380 votes, Keith E. Richards with 1,229 votes and Arah C. Lockhart with 1,147 votes.
• In the party office races, Emmett Hansen won the Democratic National Committeeman position with 1,791 votes. Holland L. Redfield II won the position on the Republican ticket with 127 votes, and Lilliana Belardo de O'Neal won the seat for the party's National Committeewoman with 104 votes.
John Micheal Canegata won the state chairman position for the Republican Party with 99 votes and Cecil R. Benjamin won that position for the Democratic Party with 1,345 votes.
Edgar Phillips will be district chairman for the Democratic Party from St. Thomas with 1,025 votes and Brad Nugent will fill that role on St. Croix with 706 votes.
The Democratic territorial committee members from St. Thomas will be Arah C. Lockhart with 1,167 votes, Dwayne A. Benjamin with 1,162 votes, Riise E. Smith-Richards with 1,010 votes, Marc L. Stridiron with 730 votes, Mark Hodge with 728 votes and Angel Turnbull with 623 votes.
The Democratic territorial committee members from St. Croix will be Carol Burke with 730 votes, Renee McAlpin-Petersen with 647 votes, Ronald Moorehead with 593 votes, Sandra L. Setorie with 553 votes, Aminah Saleem with 548 votes and Dean R. Andrews with 439 votes.
All eight of the candidates for member-at-large to the Democratic territorial committee qualified: Carol M. Burke, Dwayne A. Benjamin, Luis A. Morales, Marylyn A. Stapleton, Nemmy Williams-Jackson, Jose L. George, Florine Audain Hassell and Omar B. U. Henry.
Votes for the party offices for the Independent Citizens Movement have not yet been counted because of the high number of write-ins. Election officials on St. Croix said the process for counting those votes will begin Monday.
There are also absentee ballots to count, and a recent agreement with the federal government gives voters covered by the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act until Sept. 25 to return their ballots. It is not clear how many ballots that might cover.
A full list of primary results will be posted at the Elections Systems website, vivote.org, but was not available at the time this story was posted.