Sept. 12, 2008 — Senatorial hopeful Patrick Simeon Sprauve may soon get some valuable on-the-job experience that could help him forge a victory at this year's General Election: On Thursday evening, 17 members of the territory's Democratic Party supported Sprauve's nomination to serve out the term of Sen. Basil Ottley Jr., who will be leaving the Legislature at the end of the month.
Sprauve's nomination was approved Thursday by the party's St. Thomas-St. John contingent, but still has to make it through the full territorial committee, which will be holding an emergency meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at Palms Court Harborview Hotel. The territorial committee does not have to accept the nomination, and may instead select one of three other candidates vying for the position: Rev. Toi A. Barbel, Horace T. Brooks or Michael Farrington.
Either way, the winning candidate's name will be forwarded to the Senate president, who will "acknowledge the party's recommendation," according to Cecil Benjamin, the party's state chairman. By law, the Senate is not required to act on — or vote to approve — the selection, he added.
Brooks' nomination received five votes Thursday from the St. Thomas-St. John members, while Barbel and Farrington received none.
Thursday's meeting was heralded by party members as "an historic event," which was only triggered once before by the death of former St. Croix Sen. Ruby M. Rouss.
"This is a momentous and bittersweet occasion," Benjamin said to a packed crowd of party members that had gathered on St. Thomas to begin the replacement process. "On one hand, the senator that is going out has set a high standard for all of us to follow. He was exemplary and served with distinction. But when it's all over, we're very optimistic that we're going to select the right person to replace this great gentleman."
When the vote was taken on each candidate, it became clear early on that Sprauve was going to clinch the nomination, with many supporters saying that they were looking for someone who would be able to make it through November's General Election and continue onto the 28th Legislature.
Speaking to the party Thursday evening, Brooks said finding someone to replace Ottley is not an opportunity to "jump start the 28th Legislature," but rather about finding the "proper way to finish out the 27th Legislature."
"The only argument being used by those who oppose me is the fact I'm not running in this year's election," Brooks said. "But I'm not a politician — I'm a public servant. And I'm not using this opportunity to be a space holder — I will serve on committees, make decisions, be as active as possible, and I think I can do all that without the fear of an election holding in the balance."
Brooks' fell just shy of beating Sen. Alvin L. Williams for a seat in the 27th Legislature and as the next highest vote getter should have earned the party's nomination, some members said.
But Sprauve assured the group that his running in the upcoming election was a sign of his "commitment to serve the people of the Virgin Islands."
"I am qualified, educated and ready to take up the challenge," he said. "I have the dedication, commitment and drive needed to make life better for the people of this territory."
Barbel did not attend Thursday's meeting, and Farrington — who nominated him self as a candidate for the position — told party members that he is "more politically astute than the colleagues that I'm running against."
Ottley, who turned in his resignation in August to Senate President Usie R. Richards, has taken a job with the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs, where he will be serving as the primary policy analyst for the Virgin Islands. Ottley was present during Thursday's Democratic Party meeting (See "Ottley Leaving Senate for Government Job in Washington.")
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