Nov. 5, 2002 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull marched to a resounding first-place finish Tuesday over seven opponents, but whether that signifies his re-election or triggers a runoff will apparently rest with the uncounted absentee ballots.
Unofficial final returns gave Turnbull and his running mate, Vargrave Richards,16,998 votes, which was 50.46 percent of the total cast in Tuesday in the governor's race.
The other unofficial vote tallies, in descending order:
John de Jongh / Paul Arnold — 8,221
Alicia "Chucky" Hansen / Thomas "Eddie" Donoghue — 2,663
Michael Bornn / Arnold M. Golden — 2,398
Gerard Luz James II / Maryleen Thomas — 1,724
Cora Christian / George Hodge Jr. — 1,025
L. Williams / K. Gonzalez Jr. — 502
H.I. Williams / J. Marius — 103
Write-ins — 50
A total of 1,274 absentee ballots — 659 for the St. Thomas-St. John district and 615 for St. Croix — were mailed out, according to Elections Supervisor John Abramson Jr.
If Turnbull's vote total including the absentee votes stays on the plus side of 50 percent, he will have won a second term. If it dips below 50 percent, he must face Tuesday's second-place finisher, businessman John de Jongh, in a runoff scheduled for Nov. 19.
The absentee ballots must be received back by the Board of Elections by 10 days after the election, in this case Nov. 15, in order to be counted. The V.I. Code specifies that a runoff election shall be held two weeks after the general election, and Nov. 19 was identified months ago as the date, should a runoff vote be needed.
That leaves the board little time to count the absentee ballots in order to determine whether Turnbull has a majority or not.
But Abramson said Tuesday night, "We have five days to count and certify the absentee ballots," which would make the deadline Nov. 20.
Asked how that would play out against the Nov. 19 date for the runoff election, he replied: "I don't know. That's one of the inconsistencies to be worked out."
And then, asked how the matter would be resolved, he said it would have to be done by "the attorney." Specifically, he said, attorney Doug Jurgen from the Attorney General's office.
Many observers are predicting that both Turnbull the incumbent and de Jongh the challenger will campaign on immediately, without waiting for the results of the absentee ballots or resolution of the inconsistencies.
But with de Jongh facing an uphill fight, there also is speculation that he might drop out and save the territory and himself the cost of an expensive runoff.
De Jongh issued this statement late Tuesday night: "I plan to meet with my running mate, Paul Arnold, and discuss the absentee ballots and decide our best course of action."
Tuesday night, meantime, belonged to the former college professor, Turnbull, who beat the well-financed challenge de Jongh by a margin of better than two to one.
The governor also left in his wake the flamboyant Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, whose 2,663 votes came mainly from her home island of St. Croix; former acting Tourism commissioner Michael Bornn, whose Republican Party credentials did him little good; Dr. Cora Christian, who can now resume her St. Croix medical practice; and Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, who now is free to return to the family-owned funeral home business.
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