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Party Posts Dominate Races in Saturday's Primary

Sept. 10, 2008 — While Saturday's primary election will determine which of 28 Democratic candidates will move forward in this year's senatorial race, the majority of names on the primary ballot will be individuals running for positions in the territory's three parties.
"That's really where the race will be," said Supervisor of Elections John Abramson Jr. when contacted Wednesday. "So this primary will actually be an election for those individuals running for private office, and just the nomination process for those senatorial candidates hoping to move on to the general election in November."
For the Democrats, four candidates — Carol M. Burke, Sonia L. Boyce, Jacqueline J. Heyliger and Barbara Ann Petersen — are vying for the title of national committeewoman. Another three candidates — David S. Jones, Raymond J. Williams and Glen J. Smith — hope to take the title of national committeeman. The individuals elected to each position serve four-year terms and represent the territory at national party events.
Residents will also elect a Democratic state chairman during Saturday's primary, choosing only one out of a possible five candidates. The state chairman, who will serve for two years, is elected to handle party issues on the local level, according to Elections officials.
Also open are a total of 12 slots on the party's district committees and 16 slots on the territorial committee. During the primary, voters will be asked to elect six out of nine possible individuals running in the St. Thomas-St. John district, and another six — out of a list of 12 candidates — running on St. Croix. Though the primary ballot also boasts a list of 18 at-large committee members, voters will only be able to elect 16 — no less than seven from each district — to serve on the territorial committee, according to Cecil Benjamin, the party's current state chairman.
This year's primary is also important for the territory's Republican Party, said current state Chairman Herb Schoenbohm.
"We have committee members that need to be selected, and have openings for about 14 at-large candidates between St. Thomas and St. John," he explained Wednesday. The Republicans' side of the ballot lists five candidates for the party's territorial committee on St. Croix and another five for St. Thomas. No candidates are listed for St. John. The ballots lists only one at-large candidate, April Newland.
Schoenbaum and Lawrence Boschulte are vying for the position of the party's state chairman.
Representing the Independent Citizens' Movement (ICM) Party is Stedmann Hodge Jr., listed as the only at-large candidate on the ballot. Voters will also have the opportunity to write in candidates for the party's St. Croix committee.
Candidates for the V.I. Board of Education in both districts will also be on the ballot — six for St. Thomas-St. John and nine for St. Croix. Each district board has four open slots, according to Elections officials. One candidate automatically comes from St. John, and this year the only candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the at-large seat is Oswin Sewer, a current Board of Education member.
Board of Education candidates selected during the primary will join other no-party and Independent Citizens' Movement candidates on the general-election ballot.
The territory's boards of elections are also seeking to fill some seats this year, with about eight slots open between the two district boards. By law, each board cannot have more than four members from each party serving at the same time, so this year voters will only be able to select one Democratic candidate from each district.
"On St. Croix, we have four members from the Democratic Party seated right now, but one of the member's term is expiring," said Raymond J. Williams, chairman of the St. Croix Board of Elections. "The others have another three years left to go."
The elections boards are the only ones in the territory governed by a "party restriction," said Lorna A.C. Thomas, a member of the St. Thomas-St. John board.
"For St. Thomas-St. John, we only have one seat left for the Democrats," she said. "On the primary ballot, there are three of us running, so voters will have to vote to send only one of us to the general election. Each member serves a four-year term, but they are staggered, so there's no possibility of a completely new board for any election."
The top 15 Democratic vote-getters — seven from St. Thomas, seven from St. Croix and one at-large — will move forward in this year's senatorial race and onto November's general election ballot, where they will join other no-party or ICM candidates. (See "Draw! Casting of Lots Decides Candidates' Ballot Placement.")
The primary will also determine which of two candidates running for delegate to Congress — challenger Victor O. Frazer or incumbent Donna M. Christensen — will move on to the general election.
"We're encouraging all voters to turn out for the primary — remember, it's just as important as the general election," Abramson said Wednesday.
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