Dancia Penn launched her candidacy with a social media video last week. (Photo: FACEBOOK)

Former Deputy Premier Dancia Penn last week announced herself as an independent candidate for an at-large seat in the House of Assembly, closely following a similar announcement by Rajah Smith, another independent at-large contender.

In a video, which was posted last Thursday on the Tola Radio VI Facebook
page, Ms. Penn portrayed herself as a “unifier,” adding that her long-time experience in public life makes her the ideal person to steer the “sinking ship” of the Virgin Islands back on course.

“We are historically a maritime people,” she said. “We are adrift in un- charted waters.”

Ms. Penn was the first Virgin Islander to serve as attorney general, and later served as deputy governor from 2004 to 2007.

In 2007, she was elected Eighth District representative on the Virgin Islands Party ticket, and Premier Ralph O’Neal named her the first deputy premier, as well as minister of health and social development.

Four years later, she lost her seat in the next election to current Health and Social Development Minister Marlon Penn, who still holds the seat. In 2015, she unsuccessfully ran as an independent at-large candidate, receiving 5.1 per- cent of the vote against 16 competitors.

This year, she was rumoured to be a possible candidate under the banner of one of the four competing parties. In the video, she admitted to having had what she described as open and transparent discus- sions with them.

However, she said, ultimately, “I have no desire to contribute to further divisions in our country.”

As an independent candi- date, she appeared to express willingness to work across party lines.

“At this critical time we must bring our best minds together,” she said, adding, “Politics should not be a dirty game.”

She added that in her view, it is time to return to the solid foundations, values and principles on which the territory was built: “honesty; integrity; hard work; respect for life and for our fellow man and fellow woman; tolerance; belief in God, however we worship him.”

Ms. Penn said she looks forward to sharing more of her platform in the coming days, and announced her first meet and greet on Saturday in Red Bay, East End.

Smith runs at-large

Businessman Rajah Smith also launched a campaign for an at-large seat via a social media video released earlier this month.

Mr. Smith ran as a VIP candidate in the Second District four years ago, finishing a distant third with 22 votes. Like Ms. Penn, he called the territory “divided.”

However, he had much stronger words for current leadership, slamming Premier Dr. Orlando Smith as “the weakest leader in the history of the Virgin Islands,” and accusing him of abandoning traditional economic staples of farming and fishing.

Mr. Smith called on voters to elect him, a “common man,” instead of the usual well-connected elites.

“Partisan politics for the last two decades did not serve us well. It served them,” he said. “It is time to end the systematic disenfranchisement of our people.”


Independent candidates have not fared well in VI elections since the two-party system took hold in the late 1990s.

In 2015, seven independents ran. Of them, Ms. Penn was the top at-large vote-getter, cracking the top eight — a feat not accomplished by an independent at-large candidate since Eileene Parsons was first elected in 1995.

The most successful was Preston Stoutt, son of former Chief Minister H. Lavity Stoutt, who finished third in the First District with 6.8 per- cent of the vote.

In the past 20 years, only one independent candidate, long-time Second District Representative Alvin Christopher (R-D2), has managed to win a seat.

Mr. Christopher was first elected as an independent in 1995 and has been a member of the Virgin Islands Party, the National Democratic Party and the People’s Empowerment Party. He was elected in 2007 as an independent, then joined the VIP on election night.

In 2011 he ran with the VIP and won, and in 2015 he campaigned unsuccessfully for an at-large seat as chairman of the PEP.