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Democratic Delegate Candidates Overwhelmingly Favor Obama

Feb. 6, 2008 — Though Virgin Islanders cannot vote for president, if you are registered to vote in the Virgin Islands and a Democrat, this Saturday you have a chance to help choose the Democratic Party candidate by voting for delegates to the Democratic National Convention.
This year, unlike past years, voters will voice their presidential preference in their caucus vote. Voters will first select the candidate they support and then pick their delegate choices from among those who have pledged to support that candidate. A sample ballot can be seen at vbs.vi/sampleballots.pdf .
The territory will have nine votes at the convention. Voters at Saturday's caucus will select six delegates. St. Croix voters will vote for two women and one man. St. Thomas and St. John voters will select two men and one woman. These six delegates will cast half a vote each for three of the V.I. votes.
The remaining six votes go to super delegates, who are automatically delegates by virtue of their position in the party. They are Gov. John deJongh Jr., who has endorsed Obama; Delegate Donna M. Christensen, who has endorsed Clinton and is a member of Clinton's health-care team; State Party Chairman Cecil Benjamin; Vice Chairwoman Marylyn Stapleton; National Committeewoman Carol M. Burke; and National Committeeman Kevin Rodriquez.
Obama is a heavy favorite in the territory. Of 20 candidates for delegate, 18 are running as Obama delegates and the other two as "uncommitted." Obama T-shirts and signs were in evidence at St. Croix's recent Martin Luther King Day march and at recent ratepayer protests against WAPA. Many Obama bumper stickers and signs are visible on cars and in businesses on St. Croix, with few Clinton stickers.
The Source spoke with a non-scientific random sampling of several St. Croix Democratic Party members, candidates for delegate and people in the street, asking their views on Saturday's caucus and the September convention, finding a high degree of enthusiasm for Obama.
"I'm definitely voting Obama," said Alphonso Franklin of Frederiksted, a former party official. "I think most people are caught up in the fever of his campaign. … Based on what I see, there won't be any clear winner in the primaries, so at the convention is where it seems to me it will happen."
"I'm an Obama girl," said Elizabeth Pichardo, a St. Croix candidate for delegate. "This is the first time I'm getting involved in the caucus process, and what caused me to run was Obama. We need a president that will pay attention to this territory. … He's also pro-employee, pro-worker; he's been there with the hotel worker's union."
Pichardo is excited that the Virgin Islands is part of the process, too.
"To my knowledge this is the first time we, as a non-incorporated slavery territory, could get involved and have some say on the national scene," she said.
Clinton was popular as well, and several individuals said they would support either an Obama-Clinton or a Clinton-Obama ticket, but favored Obama.
"They complement each other," Franklin said. "It is unusual to have two such exciting candidates that it is even difficult to choose."
A candidate needs to have 2,025 of the total 4,049 votes to clinch the nomination. Nine votes is just less than half a percent, but in a close contest, that bloc could become decisive. Many elections have been won by half a percent or less.
The selection of delegates will occur from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday. Caucus sites are Gertrude's Restaurant on St. Croix, Charlotte Amalie High School Modular Classroom 2 on St. Thomas, and Julius Sprauve School on St. John. Before the votes are cast, the candidates will have a chance to address party members from 9 to 11 a.m. and make their case for why they should be chosen.
Election of delegates is governed by the party's Delegate Selection and Affirmative Action plan, which was released to the public last June. To view the plan, visit vbs.vi/delegateplan.pdf.
In the St. Croix District, the candidates are:
— Carolyn "Lyn" M. Burke: uncommitted
— Omar B.U. Henry: Obama
— Marise C. James: Obama
— Dodson K. James: Obama
— Wanda L. C. Morris: Obama
— Verdel Petersen: Obama
— Elizabeth Pichardo: Obama
— Shawna K. Richards: Obama
— Robert Rios: Obama
— Anastasia Rivers: Obama
In the St. Thomas-St. John District, the candidates are:
— Jason Budsan: Obama
— Sebastiano Paiewonsky Cassinelli: Obama
— Barbara Dalmida-Thompson: uncommitted
— Edouard "Eddie" T. deLagarde: Obama
— Shawn-Michael Malone: Obama
— James A. O'Bryan Jr.: Obama
— Arah C. Lockhart: Obama
— Hector A. Squiabro: Obama
— Marc L. Stridiron: Obama
— Athniel "Bobby" J. Thomas: Obama
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