Edging out incumbent Demo-crat Craig Barshinger, Independent Citizens Movement candidate Carmen Miranda Wesselhoft is the new St. John Senator-at-Large in 27th V.I. Legislature.
Taking 54.83 percent of the vote compared to Barshinger’s 45.13 percent, Wesselhoft will be the only Love City representative in the senate since St. John resident Lorelei Monsanto did not garner enough votes to claim a district seat.
First-time candidate Wessel-hoft, who will take over the Senator-at-Large post January 10, said she is excited to be serving the people.
“I’m feeling great — just wonderful,” said Wesselhoft. “My campaign was a great experience. I’m looking forward to serving the people of the territory and working along with my colleagues.”
Asked what her top priorities were, Wesselhoft stuck to two of her major campaign platforms — expanded health care and tax relief for St. John residents.
Over the past few months, both issues rose to the forefront of the campaign, with Love City residents concerned over enforcement of a 1936 federal law that could push commercial and private property taxes through the roof and the lack of new services at Myrah Keating Smith Com-munity Health Center.
Dialysis, Birthing Center
“I’m working toward bringing a dialysis station and a birthing center to St. John,” Wesselhoft said. “I know it’s going to be a challenge, but I’ll be working for those goals. I’ll also be working to assist people with their property taxes so they aren’t paying for their neighbor’s homes.”
Barshinger, who served one term at St. John’s Senator-at-Large, congratulated Wesselhoft.
“I congratulate Carmen,” said Barshinger. “I give Carmen my support because she is my Senator-at-Large as well come January 10.”
His senate tenure was a worthwhile experience, Barshinger explained.
Town Meeting Senator
“My time in the senate was a wonderful opportunity to serve the people and get things moving forward for the Virgin Islands,” said Barshinger. “I became known as the town meeting senator and putting people in the democratic process. I would like to see that continue because I want people to still feel free to come to meetings and voice their opinions without retaliation.”
“We continue to move away from an era of top down patriarchal leadership to a more participative democracy where everyone’s voice is valued and can become part of the solution,” Barshinger continued.
Looking toward the future, any additional bids for public office will hinge on Wesselhoft’s performance, explained Barshinger.
“If Carmen does a fabulous job, then there won’t be any need for me to run again because I’m not running for me, I’m running to get the job done,” Barshinger said. “I’m going to be watching and I hope the new Senator-at-Large stands on her own.”
A movement was afoot in the 26th Legislature to get Wesselhoft elected, according to Barshinger.
“I know that Carmen and Randy Knight and Celestino White worked very hard and put a lot of money into her campaign and I have to acknowledge that they did what it took to win the election,” said Barshinger. “I hope that all St. John residents join me in encouraging Carmen to grow into the position and be the best that she can be.”
Hoping for No Puppets
“I hope that all St. John residents will urge her to be her own woman and not a puppet of Celestino White,” Barshinger added.
While Monsanto will not be a part of the 27th Legislature, she will be keeping a close eye on the senators who are.
“We all have to make sure that St. John is not forgotten in the St. Thomas/St. John district,” said Monsanto. “We cannot sit and wait for someone to act, we have to make sure they do. Since we’ve given them our votes, we have to ensure that they step up to the plate for us.”
Despite the loss in her first district political bid, Monsanto enjoyed campaigning.
“The campaign was fun and exciting because everyone who was running got along,” said Monsanto.
No Promises from Monsanto
Monsanto made no promises about her political future.
“We’ll deal with the future when the future comes,” said Monsanto. “I’ve always been a community activist and I will continue to be a community activist as St. John is my home and will always be my home.”