St. John Senator at Large candidate Ronnie Jones has only Independent Almando “Rocky” Liburd left in the political ring as an opponent for St. John Senator at Large — and Jones is going to try to knock out Rocky before their scheduled November fight.
Perennial candidate Jones thus far has successfully challenged the candidacy of his only two Democratic primary opponents and the only Republican candidate.
In addition to the two Democrats knocked out of what would have been a three-way primary, former St. John Administrator James Dalmida Jr. and political newcomer St. John businessman B. Greg Miller, Republican newcomer Jodi Hodge also was disqualified based on the three-year residency requirement after being challenged by Jones.
The Supervisor of Elections did not identify the source of the previous challenges, but Jones acknowledged on Saturday, May 31, that he had challenged all three candidacies and would be challenging Liburd’s candidacy next.
“I don’t mind running against anyone as long as they are legal,” Jones said. “We have to have a process that people think is correct. There is a system otherwise there is chaos.”
The St. Johnian, who said he will be taking a leave from his Department of Human Services position at the end of June to campaign, is confident he can beat his only remaining general election opponent, Independent candidate and former Senator at Large Liburd, but he will ask the Supervisor of Elections to verify Liburd’s residency.
Party Wants Liburd Candidacy Challenged
Party officials want him to challenge the candidacy of Independent Liburd, on the same three-year St. John residency requirement already used by the Supervisor of Elections to disqualify two Democratic candidates and one Republican newcomer.
“The election system should do it on their own,” Democratic Party official Pamela Richards Samuel told St. John Tradewinds on May 31. “But, there has to be a challenge and it should come from Ronnie (Jones).”
Jones, who said he previously only had challenged potential primary opponents for the Democratic nomination, said Saturday, May 30, that he would file a formal challenge to Liburd’s candidacy on Monday, June 2, based on the requirement a Senator at Large candidate must live on St. John for three years prior to election.
Throughout his former service as Senator at Large, Liburd lived with his late wife Faye in a their St. Thomas home on Raphune Hill overlooking the Charlotte Amalie waterfront. Liburd’s elderly mother still lives in the family home in the Palestina area of Coral Bay with the assistance of a caregiver.
Liburd could not be reached for comment.
Jones’ Challenges Knock Out Three
In a series of announcements, Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes has disqualified three candidates for St. John Senator at Large including Hodge, a first-time political candidate who has lived with Sen. Barshinger on St. John since late 2012.
Jones acknowledged that he challenged Hodge’s candidacy, but said he only did os because Sen. Barshinger initially had told him Hodge would be running as a Democrat and “I didn’t want a primary if I didn’t have to.”
Both Hodge and Miller said they were told they could run for senator from the St. Thomas District.
Jones also acknowledged he challenged Dalmida candidacy because of his concerns that Dalmida had been working out of the territory for some time. Dalmida subsequently withdrew his candidacy when he was unable to complete the paperwork by the deadline.
Former Candidate Miller Cites Misinformation
Jones subsequently also challenged the candidacy of Greg Miller, another a first-time political candidate, who acknowledged his filing for St. John Senator at Large was based on misinformation on the residency requirements.
“I am a little surprised Ronnie would do that,” Miller told Tradewinds of Jones’ challenge.
“A few weeks ago I registered to be a candidate for the Senate at Large seat,” Miller e-mailed St. John Tradewinds on May 29. “I have been a registered Voter in the V.I. since 1996. I have had an office on St. John since 1995, property on St. John since 2002, a house on St. John since 2010.”
“At the beginning of May, I registered to vote on St. John and began renting an apartment on St. John and began to live in Fish Bay,” Miller added.
“ I was told that the rules for being a candidate for Senate at Large was to live in the V.I. for three years and live on St. John six months prior to the election,” Miller said. “Yesterday I was told that I could not run for the Senate at Large position, but I could run for one of the seven St. Thomas-St. John Senate seats.”
Miller previously had acknowledged his residency history to St. John Tradewinds and confirmed that his tax returns were filed with a St. Thomas address.
“At this time I don’t know if I am a candidate or not,” admitted Miller.
Dalmida Could Not Meet Deadline
Former Schneider Administration St. John Administrator St. Johnian Dalmida, a hospitality industry veteran and former Caneel Bay Resort manager, expressed disappointment at his disqualification based on his recent employment out of the territory.
”After being informed that my residency was being challenged and scrambling to provide the required documents to support my claim, I was later informed that I needed to submit a tax authorization form at the last moment,” Dalmida texted St. John Tradewinds.
“The form also stated that I needed my wife to submit one also, because we filed jointly,” Dalmida continued. “My wife not being here, I couldn’t meet the deadline. I was given less than an hour to do so.”
“I am confident that I would have been a great senator for the people,” Dalmida texted. ”I will give it another shot. Thank You.”
Elections Reviews Tax Returns
Alecia Wells, St. John member of Board of Elections, questioned the Supervisor of Elections criteria for determining the three-year residency.
“I just asked the attorney for the Board of Elections and she said she was using tax returns to verify residency,” Wells said May 28.
St. John Tradewinds was unable to reach Elections Supervisor Fawkes to determine whether Liburd’s candidacy would be examined under the same criteria as the other candidates — and for an official explanation of the candidate vetting process and the election board’s ability to challenge a candidacy on its own initiative.
Fawkes did leave a message when she returned a call from St. John Tradewinds on Friday.
Ironically, the V.I. Joint Board of Elections voted Monday, May 19, to allow candidates to use nicknames — which should be a benefit to “Rocky” if he remains a candidate and leave Jones scrambling to adopt a nickname.