June 27, 2002 John P. de Jongh Jr. and Paul Arnold made their bid for Government House official Thursday night before a crowd of 400 to 500 supporters in Frederiksted's Buddhoe Park.
De Jongh and Arnold have been campaigning openly for months and are expected to give incumbent Gov. Charles W. Turnbull serious competition in November.
Although Democrats, like Turnbull, the duo announced they will run as independent candidates. "I feel that we need to run as independents to make this happen," de Jongh said, "because sadly … the leadership of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands has moved away from that spirit of inclusion, that commitment to fairness and equal opportunity which is far more accurately reflected by the membership of the Democratic Party."
But he was clear, "I am a Democrat. Paul Arnold is a Democrat."
"We need Democrats, we need ICM-ers, we need Republicans, we need independents, to make this happen," de Jongh said.
He also said the territory needs a governor who will "make it his responsibility to see to it that business grows. And to do this, a governor must know what he is talking about. He cannot view the private sector as enemy territory."
He cited five top priorities to be addressed: education, economic opportunity, crime, health care and financial management. He said he was confident in his ability to "push forward the throttle of economic development on all three islands," adding that it is long past time for "a governor of the Virgin Islands to make it his responsibility to see to it that business grows." He said he favors the establishment of a Tourism Authority and tax reform for small businesses so they can compete in all markets.
De Jongh has been vocal about his decision to run now instead of waiting another four years. "If we wait four more years, we risk having this year's eighth graders be seniors in unaccredited high schools. We risk even more businesses failing, industries leaving, buildings vacated, jobs lost. We risk having this Frederiksted pier stand empty of ships for longer and longer periods. We know we cannot afford any of these risks."
DeJongh served as president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce for two years, from 1999 to 2001. He was also Turnbull's choice to head the task force that developed the Five Year Operating and Strategic Financial Plan and co-chaired the private-public sector Cruise Ship Task Force.
De Jongh took a swing at his detractors who have used his connections to the business community against him. "My political opponents have tried to characterize me as some kind of well-off aloof person, a 'better than' who cares only for the 'haves.' They did not grow up in my family. It is insulting to the very memory of my mother, who as a single parent and as a social worker did nothing but care for others, to suggest that she raised her children to be uncaring. I could not be that kind of person raised as I was raised."
Arnold, who grew up playing in Buddhoe Park, characterized the 15-year relationship between himself and deJongh as that of "professional colleagues." Taking a swipe at Turnbull and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, who has announced his own candidacy for governor, and at Gov. Roy L. Schneider and Lt. Gov. Kenneth Mapp before them, Arnold said, "The history of the past two administrations of governors and their running mates will not repeat with Paul Arnold and John de Jongh I know who I am asking you to elect as our next governor, and so do you. We only elect one governor."
And de Jongh assured the crowd, "I do not intend to restrict or limit the use of Paul's talent to insurance matters. I will be requesting the removal of the Division of Banking and Insurance from under the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. I want Paul to work with me directly and broadly in running this government."
De Jongh and Arnold both have served in the public and private sectors. De Jongh started his career working at Chase Manhattan Bank until he was drawn to government service by former Gov. Juan Luis to serve on the Industrial Development Commission. During the Alexander Farrelly administration, he served as Finance commissioner and as special assistant to the governor. He was instrumental in drafting the legislation that established the Public Finance Authority, where he later served as executive director.
More recently de Jongh has served as president, director and chief operating officer of Lockhart Companies Inc. He was president of the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands during the time that the foundation produced the first "Kids Count" report, which dramatically pointed out problems of poverty and neglect facing Virgin Islands children.
Arnold served for more than 10 years in the U.S. Navy; he was publicly honored for intercepting and boarding a Russian ship during the Cuban missile crisis. He returned to St. Croix and went to work for Martin Marietta as a recruiter. His work in human resources led him to the position of Labor commissioner in the Farrelly administration. Since then, he has worked in his chosen field of human resources for Vialco, the Carambola Resort and Hovensa.
In describing the man he hopes to serve with, Arnold said, "John is one of the most sincere, dedicated, hard-working individuals I know. The job of governor demands such characteristics. John deJongh, our next governor, will have to clean the mess we will find in Government House in January. This is the most difficult part of this job. Consequently, it is not a part-time retirement job, nor is it a job where we can afford to let the jobholder get on-the-job-training. In fact, it is a job for one who is prepared and qualified in varied, diverse, yet relevant fields. It is a job for John."
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