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Nikki Haley comments on Virgin Islanders voting for president and refinery issues

Attendees of an event organized by the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands listen to remarks from Nikki Haley Monday evening at The Terrace Restaurant in The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort as the party’s presidential candidate conducts her second virtual call with VI residents ahead of Thursday’s VIGOP caucus.
Attendees of an event organized by the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands listen to remarks from Nikki Haley Monday evening at The Terrace Restaurant in The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort as the party’s presidential candidate conducts her second virtual call with VI residents ahead of Thursday’s VIGOP caucus.

ST. CROIX — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley addressed issues concerning the territory’s residents on Monday while making her second virtual pitch for votes of Virgin Islanders during an event the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands held ahead of the party’s upcoming caucus on Thursday, which is the third-in-the-nation Republican primary or caucus.

Haley, the last Republican presidential candidate standing against former President Donald Trump, responded to questions about issues concerning Virgin Islanders during her second Zoom call with residents within the past two weeks at The Terrace Restaurant in The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort.

The former United Nations ambassador and South Carolina governor spoke for five minutes about Trump’s shortcomings, and her success in the polls, as well as what she plans to do if elected president with a focus on securing the border, strengthening the economy, improving education, and preventing war.

“This is about the fact that we need a new generational leader,” Haley said. “We can’t have it to where our final two candidates are two men in their 80s. That’s not being disrespectful; that’s a fact. We need someone who can go eight years hard, disciplined, and get our country back on track.”

Haley then spent eight minutes answering four submitted questions from three VIGOP representatives and an attendee before giving a two-minute closing statement. The questions related to the inability for Virgin Islanders to vote for president, judicial nominees, and deregulating elements of environmental protection to aid in the restart of St. Croix’s oil refinery, as well as why Virgin Islanders should vote for her during Thursday’s caucus.

Republican National Committeeman Johann Clendenin, a U.S. Marine of 38 years who retired as a lieutenant colonel, lost his right to vote for president that he exercised while in the military when he returned to his native St. Croix. While participating in the Zoom call, Clendenin asked Haley if she would support the territory’s ongoing effort to find a way to vote for the nation’s commander in chief.

“We have a constitutional convention this year, and we’re looking to figure out some sort of way that the territories could have a vote for a president,” he said.

Republican National Committeeman Johann Clendenin speaks during an event organized by the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands Monday evening at The Terrace Restaurant in The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort.
Republican National Committeeman Johann Clendenin speaks during an event organized by the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands Monday evening at The Terrace Restaurant in The Buccaneer Beach and Golf Resort.

Haley said she wants residents in the territories to have equality just like every other American. When it comes to voting for president in U.S. territories, she said she would be willing to talk about it.

“I don’t know that I’m willing to say, ‘yes, we need to do that’ because we have to look at all the other territories that are involved, and what that means, but I do think it’s good that you now have this caucus, and you’re able to do that, but I think it’s worth us sitting down and talking about how we would go forward with something like that, but I don’t know that I can commit to that today,” she said.

Gordon Ackley, Republican Party in the Virgin Islands chairman, who participated in the Zoom call, asked Haley if she could commit to working with the party to make sure Republicans fill vacancies in the territory when it comes to presidential appointments, which include U.S. attorney, U.S. marshal and District Court judges. Haley committed to not just appointing Republicans to fill the federal offices, but conservative Republicans.

“We need to have good, strong conservative leaders in all of those positions, without question,” she said. “I don’t know why that hasn’t happened up until now, but we’ve got to make sure that we do that going forward.”

Haley responded to a submitted question from an attendee who wanted to know how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under her administration would be more focused on energy independence, as well as work to help the St. Croix refinery restart following obstacles that President Joe Biden’s EPA has put in place. Haley stressed the need to stop demonizing energy producers, and partner with them. She said two things at the United Nations that Russia, China and Iran never wanted the United States to have are a strong military and energy independence.

“We won’t just be energy independent; we should be energy dominant,” she said. “We need to move the EPA out of the way. Right now, they care more about sagebrush lizards than they do about whether any of us can afford our utility bill.”

Haley stressed the need to speed up the permitting process, get pipelines moving (including the Keystone pipeline), export as much liquified natural gas as possible, and utilize nuclear energy rather than going hat in hand to Saudi Arabia, or importing dirty oil from Iran or Venezuela.

“Let’s not just do enough to sustain us; let’s turn our energy sector into an economic powerhouse,” she said. “When we do that, that’s how we pay down debt, that’s how we grow our economy, that’s how we get more people jobs. It’s a winner for us, but it will only happen if we partner with our energy producers, and stop demonizing them, so I think it’s an opportunity waiting to happen, and I think it’s something that if we’re bullish on it, we’re gonna see that we do very well, and not to mention it’s a national security issue.”

Haley responded to a question submitted by Women’s Republican Chairwoman Valerie Stiles asking why Virgin Islanders should vote for her during Thursday’s caucus, as well as how she’ll beat Trump and Biden. Haley noted her momentum going from 2% to 20% in the Iowa caucus, and then going to 43% in the New Hampshire primary.

“And at this point, we’re working very hard in South Carolina,” she said. “My approval is strong in South Carolina. They know that I was a good governor. Now, the key is to make sure that we go and show them I’m a good president.”

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at New Realm Brewing Co. Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina.
Source: Sean Rayford/AP
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at New Realm Brewing Co. Sunday in Charleston, South Carolina.

South Carolina will hold its GOP presidential primary on February 24, marking the fifth Republican contest to take place this election following the Iowa caucus, New Hampshire primary, Nevada primary and caucus, and Virgin Islands caucus.

Haley pointed out that her rallies throughout South Carolina have been attended by hundreds, and up to 1,500 people.

“So, the rallies have been great,” she said. “We’re getting everybody and anybody to get to the polls to win, so our goal is we’re not going anywhere.”

After South Carolina, Haley said she’s going to Michigan, and on to Super Tuesday (March 5), when the greatest number of U.S. states hold primary elections and caucuses. She said her goal is to continue building on her momentum in the Virgin Islands. If she becomes the Republican presidential nominee, Haley said she would easily defeat Biden.

“Any news station will tell you that, anybody that looks at a poll will tell you that,” she said. “That is not the issue. We will defeat Biden and we will win by a strong margin, so I welcome that. I think that what we’re gonna see is the party that puts up a new generational leader is gonna be the party that wins.”

Tom Eader is the Chief Reporter for WTJX. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, Eader received his bachelor's degree in journalism from Ball State University, where he wrote for his college newspaper. He moved to St. Croix in 2003, after landing a job as a reporter for the St. Croix Avis. Eader worked at the Avis for 20 years, as both a reporter and photographer, and served as Bureau Chief from 2013 until their closure at the beginning of 2024. Eader is an award-winning journalist, known for his thorough and detailed reporting on multiple topics important to the Virgin Islands community. Joining the WTJX team in January of 2024, Eader brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the newsroom.
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