ST. CROIX — When announcing her candidacy in May 2017 — the first gubernatorial candidate to announce for elected office for the 2018 election cycle — Soraya Diase Coffelt came out swinging. At the event, held at Gertrude’s Restaurant here, Ms. Coffelt’s message was clear: to see the Virgin Islands become an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean; put the needs of Virgin Islanders first; and work to restore prosperity. She spoke of helping local businesses rebuild, fighting for families, igniting the tourism industry through diversification and investment, and strengthening the territory’s most critical public services.
But while the candidate has been active in the community since her announcement, other gubernatorial candidates who announced their bids long after Ms. Coffelt, revealed their running mates before her. This led to a prevailing thought that Ms. Coffelt was struggling to secure a good person to be her second in command.
On Tuesday, however, the concerns were laid to rest when Ms. Coffelt announced Dwight Nicholson as her lieutenant governor choice at a small event held at Ms. Coffelt’s St. Croix headquarters in Strawberry. Mr. Nicholson, an engineer who attended Pennsylvania State University, had ran for Senate in the past, stirred by outrage for Act 6905, which raised every senator’s salary by $20,000. His bid failed, though, after only receiving a few hundred votes. But Mr. Nicholson, now a lieutenant governor nominee, expressed a commitment to help move the territory forward in the right direction by focusing on the growth of small business.
Ms. Coffelt referred to her choice as a creative person with problem-solving skills. “He continually thinks of ways to help things work better and more efficiently,” she said. She also called Mr. Nicholson a team player and someone with “a vast amount of technical knowledge.”
Mr. Nicholson, a soft spoken individual, is a WAPA employee and was timid about answering questions pertaining to the performance of the utility. In fact, Ms. Coffelt appeared to suggest that Mr. Nicholson should leave difficult questions about WAPA to her.
During yesterday’s event, Ms. Coffelt reiterated her objectives of forming a government that is transparent and free of corruption. She also intends to be frugal, stating that she would not be traveling on private jets and would do her best to be a good steward of taxpayers’ dollars.
The candidate also berated Governor Kenneth Mapp, casting the territory’s current leader as an abuser of the people’s trust; she also levied criticism at Mr. Mapp’s performance immediately following the 2017 storms, contending that his leadership during that time was poor. Attempting to strengthen her point, Ms. Coffelt spoke of long lines that people stood in for hours to get basic needs, when such issues could have been solved by opening up more centers, she said.
The announcement event on Tuesday saw a few supporters and curious Virgin Islanders filling a room that could support no more than 15 individuals comfortably. Ms. Coffelt’s team said the small setting was deliberate as they intend to keep the focus on issues.
The team spoke of a busy agenda in the coming weeks, including multiple radio interview stops and canvasing.