ST. CROIX — Two women candidates led a wave of Democratic newcomers to the V.I. Legislature on St. Croix on Tuesday, sending a clear message that voters want not just fresh ideas, but leaders who can deliver.
Topping the vote count is former Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Alicia Barnes, who received 7,310 votes or 12.45 percent of the vote.
Allison DeGazon, an entrepreneur and public servant, followed with 7,266 votes or 12.38 percent of the total vote.
Regarding the significance of two women topping the vote count, Barnes pointed to the strength of her and DeGazon’s campaigns rather than their gender.
“I don’t believe it’s so much because we’re women — rather, it’s two individuals that ran very well-executed campaigns,” she said. “We ran and executed an issue-based, solution-oriented campaign, and I believe that that message resonated with the voters.”
DeGazon also said her platform and experience resonated with voters but acknowledged that women are indeed having a national moment.
“Right now, nationally, we see the movement that women are making and we’re making the same type of noise here,” she said. “Women have the ability to execute and we see things to fruition — we make it happen. I believe the people here want more to happen. They want to see more productivity out of the Senate and I believe we women will bring that to fruition.”
Incumbent Senators Kurt Vialet and Novelle Francis Jr. finished third and fifth with 5,346 votes and 5,142 votes, respectively.
Coming in fourth was newcomer Javan James, a 31-year-old Air Force veteran and certified process operator and water treatment operator, who received 5,309 votes or 9.04 percent of the vote.
James, a bona fide millennial, said he hopes to reach out to young people via social media, as well as conduct town halls and school visits, all to get students more engaged in the political process and their community.
“One of the key things that I spoke about as part of my platform is transparency,” James said. “I’ll be using social media as a means of communicating and staying in touch with the people.”
Rounding out sixth and seventh place were former senator Kenny Gittens and former St. Croix Police Chief Oakland Benta, with 4,110 votes and 4,001 votes, respectively.
Benta said he is very pleased with the results and the opportunity to use his economics background to help grow the economy and give people a better picture of what a “global market looks like.”
“What will be seen is a dedication and the results of industry development within this territory, as well as the growth of our economy and a market of infrastructure and business entrepreneurship which will be developed,” he said.
The Daily News was unable to get a comment from Gittens by press time.
Senators Francis and Vialet showed cautious optimism about five newcomers from St. Croix joining the 33rd Legislature.
“I’m somewhat nervous because you know what you have and you don’t know what you’re going to get,” Francis said. “Nonetheless, we’ve been able to campaign together as Democrats and we’ve also developed a relationship over the last several months and I intend to foster that relationship in the 33rd Legislature.”
Vialet pointed to the loss of institutional knowledge moving into the 33rd Legislature.
“We have lost a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge from the Legislature,” Vialet said. “I think it’s about 80 years of institutional knowledge that is gone. The two incumbent senators from St. Croix have collectively eight years of experience.”
He continued, “We’re going to do everything possible to see how we can make sure everyone is up to speed and make sure we’re able to continue to move the Virgin Islands forward. I’m looking forward to working with the new individuals. Seven Democrats on St. Croix is unheard of — but it’s an opportunity for us to work together.”