One month and a half ago, I declared my candidacy for a fifth term as your Delegate to Congress. And I did so with the same conviction, purpose and enthusiasm as I did my first term, seven and a half years ago.
Over my tenure as your Delegate to Congress, I have kept you, my constituents, at the core of my decisions. Whether in the halls of Congress or meeting with you on St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John, I have based my work on your concerns, your needs and our collective future as a people.
At this juncture of my tenure, near the end of my 8th year as your Delegate to Congress, I stand at a moment of great challenge. Having responded to your cries for a change in our present course of "business as usual" as our beloved territory stands still or in some cases slides backwards in its progress, I am at odds with the leadership of my party, and I expect their opposition in the primary and general elections.
This campaign will not be just an ordinary campaign. Yes, we will have functions and events. We will place ads, and we will go canvassing.
This is however a campaign that is about our people's right to a secure and viable future.
It is a campaign about the government's responsibility to be accountable to its citizens.
It is a campaign about whether it is the will of the people that we just coast along without a rudder or direction, and about possibly losing the direction that our forebears have sacrificed and worked hard for.
It is really a campaign about who is in charge here, and I say the people are in charge.
All of my life I have been listening to the heartbeat of this Island, it is where I grew up, where I practiced, where I had my children and where they were raised, and are beginning to come back to.
Now I listen to the heartbeat of our entire territory, and the heart and soul, the essence of the VI is here in St. Croix. Just as in the past, the future of our territory will be determined by what happens here.
We are at once the Virgin Islands strength and its weakness.
My listening, my feeling our pain, because, as quiet as it is kept, I live here too—that is what led me to introduce the bill to create a Chief Financial Officer and to be embroiled in the controversy that it has become.
But I will say that this storm isn't because of any desire on my part to return to colonialism. I certainly believe that we in the Virgin Islands should continue our march towards self-determination. However, it is true, we continue to go to the Congress over and over again, asking them to fix this and that and to give us this and that. We don't claim colonialism when we ask for what we want, why is it colonialism, when we ask for assistance to help ourselves correct the damage that we continue to do to our territory through fiscal mismanagement and lack of accountability? - We can't make up our own facts to suit the occasion. There is no return to colonialism in an elected delegate's proposal to have an independent professional that our elected officials will have a major role in choosing, help us for a limited period of time, in righting our fiscal affairs.
I believe that the real issue before my opposition is a fear of change. And the real change is that for a change, the people of the Virgin Islands will be informed. They will know what we have, and where we are going.
Knowledge is power, and for a change, the people will have power - government will finally and truly be of the people.
I always believed that the bill would be opposed, because this is about as close as you get to revolutionary change in the Virgin Islands.
But I chose to cast my lot and my fate with the people.
It is you who elected me; it is you, not any other elected official that I must answer to.
Let me talk about the undercurrents of this campaign.
The opposition that I am facing is also about "putting me in my place"
My place as a woman
As a Crucian
And even as a member of Congress
My place as a Delegate is not just in Washington, but where every other of the 437 members are - in our individual communities, providing leadership.
My place as a Crucian - is where this Island has been on every major step this territory has taken, at the forefront of change, demanding that our Island and our territory get our due.
My place as a woman—is right where I am, acknowledging where the real needs of my community are and taking care of my community
So as a leader in Healthcare - we get attention, we have more funding, and our work on Medicaid is moving forward.
On Medicare - I fought against the bad bill we got, as did Democrats across the country. When Ted Kennedy needed Black Caucus support for something he wanted in the bill he came to me, tracked me down, called me out of a meeting and asked - I told him it depended on equitable treatment for the territories, and he said done!
And guess what we won that vote fair and square, until the Republican leadership in the House broke arms to change it. If Democrats had been in charge - and I hope we will be next year, we would be treated like everyone else and under a much better bill. No one anywhere is happy with this Medicare legislation, and the worst is yet to come.
In the meantime, I am working with the drug companies to bring cards that will give discounts to any one without insurance. We are going to work out any problems with the pharmacies first so everyone can participate.
I can say without fear of contradiction, that no one else, regardless of name, or smarts can deliver what I can on the federal or local level.
Over years of hard work, I have built relationships worth much more than gold with Democrats and Republicans, and those relationships continue to pay dividends for the people of the Virgin Islands.
Let's build on what we have, let's continue to move forward, not lose ground. We can't afford it.
And what about gasoline taxes—and the insinuations by opposition that I have not worked hard to get this. We are about to get the biggest piece of that pie ever - and we, the people of the Virgin Islands pay nothing into it. The states put the money in, and we receive funding to the tune of $20 million per year over 5 years. I worked with folks at Public Works and the governor's office to achieve this. I do not let differences of opinion or any conflict stand in the way of what the people of the Virgin Islands need me to do.
We have done well in money for solid and water waste treatment,
We are bringing back Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry to look at environmental concerns of communities in St. Croix and St. Thomas. Environmental justice has to be a reality for us here - our health, our lives, and those of our children yet unborn depend on it.
We have worked to help our not-for-profit, community organizations, cooperatives and others to position themselves for financial help to improve the quality of our lives.
We have done what we could to keep funds from going back to the federal government - which we will not be the case when we have a CFO - we need that money, you need that money, your children need that money.
At this critical time for this territory, my Party should not be supporting an opponent against me, just because I have my own mind, I listen to the people, and I want this territory to do better, to move forward.
This is the time to build upon, to use the strength I have developed, the high regard and respect, which I can tell you has only gotten stronger as my colleagues have witnessed my efforts help us be more responsible, and contrary to the opinion of my opponents, more self-reliant.
We cannot even talk about status, if we don't have a strong financial leg to stand on.
This is a fight between staying where we are, or even worse, slipping backward, or moving to a more secure future, a future of promise, not of deprivation.
I, Donna Christensen, am for moving forward, to being the best we can be, and for leaving a better place for our children. I know you, the people of the Virgin Islands are also for moving ahead.
Education was the key for you and I, and it is for our children. They need the best we can offer.
Our teachers work hard, they are burning out. Most of our parents do the best they can while working to make ends meet, and the Department - all of our commissioners, go beyond the job to improve education and opportunity but are severely limited by the broken dysfunctional system they are forced to work in.
I can tell you without fear of contradiction, that unless that system gets fixed, and a CFO is a large part of that, we will not meet the requirements of the compliance agreement - and that puts millions of badly needed education dollars at risk.
I will not let that happen, I am not letting that happen, stick with me, continue to stand with the CFO legislation, and we will win for our children, who so desperately need good news.
We continue to work hard on an issue which is just as important for our survival as fixing our fiscal crisis - crime.
We have brought millions of additional dollars in. And because I have worked hard, I earned a seat on the Homeland Security committee, and am working to bring even more resources to the territory for law enforcement.
We are working with federal agencies for help - not only Justice, but also Health, that is why we had mental health town meetings hearings here in April. It is a part of the solution.
I live here, my daughter and granddaughter live here. We have seen our share of tragedy as have all of you. I AM WILLING TO STAND UP AND SAY no more, and help our communities to say it too.
My candidacy is about financial security and personal security. I know it because from age 5 months, the Virgin Islands have been my home. I never thought about leaving except for working as your Delegate to Congress and I never will! That is why I earned the right to represent you. I am a part of this community. I feel it and I know it.
My work as Delegate is largely about doing things that improve the quality of our lives. This includes my work in small business. Never before have we had so many resources devoted to growing our small business sector. This is important to me, because it is through small business that our local residents can get a good piece of the economic pie. A solid job is good, but putting you in business is better for you and it creates jobs.
I want us to be a part of the economic engine - that is the way we will grow our economy - through investment by larger corporations, saving our EDC companies, and growing local small business. Our money needs to stay here and grow here.
Later, the Small Business administrator will visit the Virgin Islands.
He is a good guy, but we in the committee have had to turn some of their policies around. Last week, we saved the 7a program which is the cornerstone of small business lending against his and the administration's opposition. Welcome him, and let him know our needs.
We will have a chance to talk some more about what we have been able to accomplish together because of your support, your and my hard work and your prayers
And to develop our vision and lay out our strategy for where we want to go from here.
The people of the Virgin Islands have made an important investment in sending me to the Congress for these past years.
You, my fellow Crucians have more of a stake, because you made the sacrifice as well, in letting me leave my practice and the Department of Health clinics to let me go.
I have not and will not forget that, as I have not forgotten where I came from, and who I belong to - all of the people of the Virgin Islands.
In all I have done, and will continue to do with your support and your vote, I have been responsive to your needs, acted responsibly, and been willing to take tough stands - some in committee, some on the House floor, and of course the big one here at home, for you, for my country, for this Caribbean region and whenever the opportunity arose for this shrinking world.
In a meeting this week, one of my colleagues said as we talked about the deficits and economic problems the current administration's policies are causing for our nation, and which directly impact us - he said that a historian friend of his summed up what was happening this way:
This is the first American generation which would be leaving less opportunity for future generations than we had.
I am running for re-election because I want to make sure that is not said about us.
I thank you for coming, I thank you for your support, I am also thanking you in advance for making sure everyone you know registers to vote, that you register as Democrats so that you can not only vote for me, but be a part of giving this Party that has always been for the people, back to the people.
And then going out and making sure everyone goes out to vote in the Primary.
Don't let anyone "mamaguy" you - we in St. Croix know who is for us and who is not.
I am not only for you, I am you.
Let's show the world that in the Virgin Islands the people rule. Let's take that Primary on September 11th with such an overwhelming majority that there is no doubt about People power.
Vote Donna M. Christensen.
The people's voice, the People's choice.