Former Senator and Ubiquitous USVI Politician, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen.
The political landscape of the U.S. Virgin Islands changed on Monday night with the passing of Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, a former senator and an emblematic figure in the territory, following a tenacious battle with cancer. She was 70.
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Hansen first made her foray into politics in 1986. In an era when clinching a senatorial seat without political party affiliation was almost Herculean, she managed to defy the odds. Over her career, Hansen served an impressive 11 terms as senator for the District of St. Croix. A testament to her political might, she still holds the record for the most votes in a senatorial election in the district.
Apart from her political ventures, Hansen was a household name in the USVI, not just for her representation in the Senate but also for her distinct voice in the media. As a radio personality, she actively addressed contemporary issues through her show "Keeping in Touch." The platform ranged from engaging political discussions to homely advice on maintaining a harmonious household.
Leveraging her base of ardent supporters, Hansen was instrumental in shaping gubernatorial elections, giving her outsize weight in negotiating deals with candidates running for governor. This strength was on full display during the 2018 General Election, when Hansen endorsed then-candidate Albert Bryan Jr. for governor. Following the election, Hansen's daughter, Elizabeth Watley, was appointed Asst. Commissioner of the V.I. Dept. of Tourism in the St. Croix District.
Hansen's election campaigns were legendary. Routinely outpacing her competitors, she enlisted acclaimed recording artists to headline her massive rallies. In a standout move during her 2018 gubernatorial campaign alongside Adlah Donastorg, the duo managed to bring Soca maestro Machel Montano to the Virgin Islands – a spectacle never seen before in the territory's political rallies.
However, Hansen's time in office saw its share of controversies. Most notable among these was the 2014 election cycle, during which she faced a high-profile legal challenge. The lawsuit, initiated by Adelbert Bryan, a former senator and former member of the Board of Elections, accused Hansen of moral turpitude, with the core issue being her past failure to pay taxes. This legal entanglement traced back to May 28th, 2009, when U.S. Attorney Paul A. Murphy announced that Hansen had been sentenced to three years in prison due to this tax omission. While she didn't ultimately serve time in prison, as visiting District Judge Frank Savage suspended all three years of her sentence with strict probationary conditions, the repercussions of the case lingered.
Despite a pardon by then-Governor John P. de Jongh and her attorneys' arguments that the pardon should allow her name on the ballot, the controversy undoubtedly tarnished her 2014 campaign. These events led to Hansen's name being initially placed on, then removed from the ballot, causing a significant setback that played a role in her reelection loss that year.
Despite the adversities and waning popularity in later years, Hansen's indomitable spirit and her significant contributions to USVI politics are undeniable. She will be remembered not just as a formidable politician, but also as a cultural icon and force of nature that shaped the political arena of the Virgin Islands for decades.