Oct. 17, 2002 – In an escalation of the first contentious media clash between two of the leading candidates for governor, the chair of the political party that Gov. Charles W. Turnbull leads lashed out Thursday afternoon at challenger John de Jongh Jr.
Newly re-elected Democratic State chair James OBryan Jr., who also is an aide to Turnbull, reacted in a press release to full-page advertisements placed Thursday in the territory's two print daily newspapers by the de Jongh campaign.
Titled "The Truth about WICO," the ads featured a letter written by former Gov. Alexander A. Farrelly in which the late chief executive debunked what he called "untrue and malicious rumors" concerning de Jongh's role in the government's purchase of The West Indian Co. a decade ago.
The ads were in response to Turnbull's comments in a radio address earlier this month questioning what the governor called de Jongh's departure from a position of importance "during the height of the critical negotiations surrounding the purchase" of the Danish company.
It was Turnbull's first such public accusation, and de Jongh's ad described it as a "fabrication" that the governor's "political operatives had been trying to peddle for some time."
O'Bryan, who like de Jongh served in the Farrelly administration, called the de Jongh ad "a desperate use of a very questionable letter signed by our late governor and national committeeman designed to pardon his duplicitous and self-serving actions relative to the sale of WICO." OBryan questioned the legitimacy of the former governor's signature and whether Farrelly had any part in writing it.
Farrelly named de Jongh Finance commissioner in 1987 and executive assistant in 1990. In the latter position, de Jongh opened talks to explore the government's acquisition of the Danish company that had had a presence in the Virgin Islands since 1912.
O'Bryan served as Farrelly's press secretary from 1991 until Farrelly left office four years later.
In response to O'Bryan's attack, de Jongh, speaking to WVWI Radio late Thursday, brushed aside the Democratic leader's comments. He said he had kept Farrelly's letter, written last Jan. 16, private until Turnbull's on-the-record charge in a political broadcast two weeks ago. "I only released this letter because, for almost eight months, the governor's political operatives and some of his henchmen have had this at rumor level in the territory," de Jongh said. "I responded only when the governor had the words come out of his mouth in an Oct. 4 radio broadcast."
In the published letter, the former governor told de Jongh that "you have my permission to make such use of this letter as you see fit." In it, Farrelly bemoaned what he termed "the attempts by others to tarnish your [de Jongh's] role in my administration in a misguided effort to undermine your pursuit of elective office."
O'Bryan's statement concluded with the pledge that the "real truth of Mr. de Jongh's role in the WICO acquisition will be revealed, and the voting public will then have to make their decisions based on trust and character."
O'Bryan issued the statement in the name of all of the officers of the Democratic Party — himself, Elmo Adams, Julien Harley and Terence Joseph. Noting that all four are employed by the Turnbull administration in high-level capacities, de Jongh said, "There is not a disconnect between the administration and the campaign."
The two candidates are in accord on one thing, de Jongh told WVWI: "I will agree that this campaign is about trust and character."
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