Christensen-Ottley win Democratic line


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Donna Christensen on Saturday claimed the Democratic nomination for governor from a field of six contenders, according to unofficial results from the primary election.

Christensen, with running mate Basil Ottley Jr., captured 35.18 percent of the votes for governor counted on Saturday, which were ballots cast at polling places. Absentee, walk-in and provisional ballots have not yet been counted.

"We're really happy. I think we ran a good race. I have an excellent running mate. There was no question in our minds that we had the strongest team that was running, and a team that's very committed to the territory and to the people of this territory," Christensen said Saturday night at her campaign headquarters after the tally was announced.

"We've said from the outset this race is not about us, it's about what the people of the Virgin Islands need, and how we can bring the experience and the expertise that we've developed over the years, the knowledge and the relationships, together with a lot of the expertise and talent and skills that are here, to really turn this economy around, help us to lower our energy costs, build a better health care system, education system, protect our retirees and do all the things that represent the challenges this community is facing today," she said.

The Christensen-Ottley ticket will move forward to vie for Government House in November's General Election, facing off against governor-lieutenant governor candidates Kenneth Mapp and Osbert Potter; Mona Barnes and Wendy Coram; Sheila Alvin Scallion and Robert Quinn; and Dale Francis and Kelvin Gonzalez.

At this point, gubernatorial candidate Soraya Diase Coffelt and running mate John Canegata also will be on the General Election ballot, pending the outcome of a decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Coffelt and Canegata appealed a decision by U.S. District Judge Wilma Lewis, who upheld a decision by Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes to strike them from the ballot.

Christensen said she was glad the primary was early this year, because there is much work to do before November's General Election.

Coming in second place for the Democratic nomination for governor in Saturday's unofficial tally, former Sen. Adlah Donastorg took approximately 24.3 percent of the vote. His running mate was Angel Torres.

Donastorg did not return a Daily News message seeking comment Saturday night after the results were posted.

Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, who picked up about 12.41 percent of the Democratic vote on Saturday in his gubernatorial bid, came in third with his running mate Patrick Simeon Sprauve.

"I feel great. I'm not going to be looking for no excuses: the rain, the storm," Francis said after votes were counted. "My feelings have always been, 'What is meant to be, will be.'"

Francis congratulated the winners and thanked the voters and his supporters. He said he had pledged to his supporters that he would run a clean campaign and challenged the winning candidates in Saturday's races to do the same and to focus on the betterment of the Virgin Islands.

Asked about his plans, Francis spoke first of the past, saying he has spent 27 years in the military, has been director of Veterans Affairs, administrator of St. Croix and will wrap up two terms as lieutenant governor in December.

"I think it's time to enjoy life," he said. "I'm planning on enjoying life."

First-time political candidate Marvin Pickering, a retired chief financial officer for Cruzan Rum, and running mate Calford Martin came in next, claiming about 10.64 percent of the votes tallied Saturday.

Pickering said he was pleased with the showing for his first time out.

"I'm disappointed that I did not win, but I feel great," Pickering said Saturday night. "I put myself out there to make a difference. It did not happen, but this is my first foray into politics, and almost a thousand people felt that I was the better candidate."

He congratulated the winners and thanked his supporters, but said it is too soon to think about whether he will run again.

"I will not shrink into oblivion. I want to be part of trying to find solutions to the issues that plague us in this community," Pickering said. "I want to be part of the solutions. I want to make my contributions to help Virgin Islanders to get a better quality of life."

Former lieutenant governor Gerard Luz James II placed fifth in the gubernatorial primary, capturing about 9.74 percent of the votes tallied Saturday. His running mate was Winston Brathwaite.

James thanked his supporters for the votes they have given him over the years and congratulated Christensen on her victory.

Moleto Smith Jr. rounded out the field of Democratic gubernatorial candidates.

Smith, a former Human Services Department deputy commissioner, and running mate Hubert Frederick claimed 7.58 percent of the votes tallied Saturday.

He thanked his family and friends and those who came out to vote.

"I guess the people have spoken, and I respect the will of the people," Smith said. "We look forward to collaborating with the candidate who prevailed in the race."

He said he thinks one of the largest hurdles for him in the election was name recognition.

He said he plans to take some personal time away from politics and said it was too early now to think about whether he will run for governor again.

The General Election is Nov. 4.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@ dailynews.vi.

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