The 34th Legislature seat made vacant by the removal of one member was filled on Monday with a swearing-in ceremony for Angel Bolques Jr., chosen as the successor to former Senator-At-Large Steven Payne Sr., who was ousted by a vote of 14-1 on July 20.
Bolques, an elected member of the Board of Education and candidate for a seat in the 35th Legislature, took the oath of office around 3:30 p.m. Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay administered the oath. Shortly before the new lawmaker was inducted, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes addressed a gathering in the Senate Chambers on St. Thomas.
Fawkes described the process by which the Democratic Party’s Territorial Committee chose Bolques to fill the vacant Senate seat and the statute that allowed that process to take place. The supervisor declared that after reviewing the process Bolques was qualified to serve.
Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory said the replacement was made quickly because the post of Senator-At-Large was a territorial office. To leave it vacant for too long would leave the island of St. John without its share of representation, she said.
“For me, this is truly a blessing,” said Bolques. He thanked his family, his coworkers and colleagues who supported him, including the staff in the office of Sen. Marvin Blyden, where he served as an administrative aide.
He also reflected on events of the past few days and weeks in the Senate, culminating in the vote by the full Senate — minus one — to remove Payne on allegations of sexual misconduct. The experience had been hard on the institution, on lawmakers, but also on the public, Bolques said.
The new senator wrapped up his remarks by promising to serve with passion and commitment. “I want to assure the people I’m going to work to the best of my ability to work with passion, honor and integrity,” he said.
Speaking to a reporter just prior to the ceremony, Bolques said he had not quit his post at the Education Board yet, but would be doing so shortly. After the ceremony, the Elections supervisor agreed that the resignation should come quickly.
“Later today or tomorrow, he is going to resign from the Board of Education,” Fawkes said. “Then the Board of Education will write to the governor and say they have a vacancy. The governor appoints the next person for the Board of Education.”
Because his post at the board was member-at-large and his seat in the Senate is also at-large, by law Bolques cannot keep them both, Fawkes said. But he does get to keep his post with the National Committee of the V.I. Democratic Party.
The new senator’s term, as of Monday, expires at the end of the second week of January 2023. That’s when the 34th Legislature ends in advance of the start of the 35th Legislature. Those who win seats in the new Senate session in the General Election traditionally take their oaths of office at the start of the third week in January.
Senators present at the swearing-in ceremony included Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Milton E. Potter, Janelle K. Sarauw, Carla J. Joseph, and Genevieve R. Whitaker.