On Monday, the Virgin Islands Party rolled out a partial list of new candidates for the territory’s next general election, including Luce Hodge-Smith, Kye Rymer, John Samuel, Natalio “Sowande Uhuru” Wheatley, and Vincent Wheatley.
VIP Chairman and Opposition Leader Andrew Fahie (R-D1) distributed the list in a press release. The long-time VIP politician also announced his decision to run for re-election as representative for the First District, a seat he has held since 1999.
The candidates — some of whom are senior public officers — were elected by the VIP Congress on Saturday, and Mr. Fahie is the only one who has previously served in the legislature.
Ms. Hodge-Smith works as government’s director of culture and plans to compete for the Fourth District seat currently held by Communications and Works Minister Mark Vanterpool.
Mr. Rymer is the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles and plans to compete for the Fifth District seat currently held by Deputy Speaker Delores Christopher.
Mr. Samuel is a member of the Public Service Commission and the former director of shipping for the VI Shipping Registry. He is slated to compete for the leadership of the Sixth District, a role currently filled by backbencher Alvera Maduro-Caines.
Natalio “Sowande Uhuru” Wheatley is the current president of the VIP and an instructor at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. Party procedure dictates that Mr. Wheatley will step down from his presidency post before the general election.
He plans to compete for the Seventh District seat currently held by Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering, the minister of natural resources and labour.
Vincent Wheatley works as government’s sister islands coordinator and was widely praised for helping establish the Virgin Gorda Recovery Operations Centre that served as a de facto government for VG in the weeks after Hurricane Irma. He plans to contest the Ninth District, which is currently led by backbencher Dr. Hubert O’Neal.
“In their demonstration of true commitment to country, the successful VIP candidates are aware that immediately upon being officially confirmed on nominations day for the general elections of 2018 or 2019, they would be obliged to tender their resignations from all public offices held,” Mr. Fahie explained in his press release. “Candidates view this not as a sacrifice but as a duty and a calling to serve their country at this critical juncture.”
The process of filling out the ballot with candidates to compete for the other three district seats and the four at-large seats will “commence immediately,” the opposition leader added.
“At its conclusion, Congress will once again convene and, thereafter, the full slate of 13 VIP candidates will stand ready, willing and able to achieve victory in the general elections and begin the process of restoring confidence in governance; restoring unity in government; and restoring government’s capability to fight for what’s best for these Virgin Islands,” he said.
General elections are constitutionally due by the end of next summer.