It was standing room-only at the first Virgin Islands Republican Territorial Convention in living memory.
The confab, held Saturday morning at the Windward Passage Hotel on St. Thomas, brought together Republicans from across St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas to select the nominees of the Republican National Committee-recognized state party for the Virgin Islands and elect the party’s office-holders.
Incumbent John Canegata was unanimously re-elected as chairman. Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, a former territorial senator and currently the chairwoman of the St. Croix Board of Elections, was re-elected as national committeewoman. She is the second longest-serving female member of the Republican National Committee. (Each state and territory has one male and one female committee member.)
Replacing long-serving national committeeman Holland Redfield is St. Croix resident Jevon Williams, a 29-year-old Army National Guard veteran who immigrated to the United States from down-island as a teenager. Williams was unanimously chosen by delegates and will assume office at the conclusion of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
The Virgin Islands GOP also selected St. Thomas businessman Gordon Ackley as its nominee for Congress. Ackley will challenge the Democratic nominee in November’s general election. Freshman incumbent Del. Stacey Plaskett is facing a challenge for re-nomination from former territorial Senate President Ronald Russell.
“I’m running because we need a congressman who can get things done—a congressman who can deliver for the Virgin Islands,” Ackley told delegates after being selected as the GOP nominee for Congress. “This isn’t about party. My candidacy is about people, not politics. It’s about being an effective voice for the Virgin Islands in Congress.”
Ackley, who helped Plaskett in 2014, said the incumbent congresswoman “isn’t getting the job done.”
“We need a congressman who can deliver so our children and grandchildren have a better, brighter future,” he said. “The problem is Congresswoman Plaskett and Democrats can’t deliver for the Virgin Islands because Republicans control Congress. As our next congressman, I can deliver for the Virgin Islands because I will be in the majority party—that is, the governing party.”
Nominated for the Legislature were Tim Daly, Vince Danet and Eloi George from the St. Thomas-St. John district and Robert Moorhead from the St. Croix district.
Williams and Belardo de O’Neal were nominated for the St. Croix Board of Elections. Meanwhile, incumbent Lawrence Boschulte and challenger Robert Max Schanfarber, the Territorial Committee secretary and a local businessman, were nominated for the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections.
St. Croix resident Marion Baptise was also nominated for the St. Croix Board of Education.
Delegates also heard from Republican National Committee co-chairwoman Sharon Day, who addressed the convention via video. She thanked the party for working with mainland Republicans to unite and defeat Democrats in the general election.
Following the convention, the new members of the Territorial Committee met in an organizational meeting and re-elected April Newland, a St. Thomas real estate agent, as party vice chairman and Schanfarber as party secretary. St. Croix’s Andrea Lee Moeckel was unanimously elected treasurer.
The Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands exercised its lawful right to select nominees at a convention after the Joint Board of Elections informed the party that it would not conduct a full primary election.
The nominees will be filed with the Election System on Monday.