Del. Donna Christensen (D)
Elected: 1996, 7th term.
Born: Sept. 19, 1945, Teaneck, NJ .
Home: St. Croix.
Education: St. Mary's Col., B.S. 1966, George Washington U., M.D. 1970.
Family: Married (Christian); 6 children.
Professional Career: Practicing physician, 1975–97; Territorial Asst., Commissioner of Health, 1988–94; Acting Commissioner of Health, 1994–95.
The delegate from the Virgin Islands is Donna Christensen, a Democrat first elected in 1996. Christensen is from an old St. Croix family. Her father was Virgin Islands Chief District Court Judge Almeric Christian. She graduated from St. Mary’s College and George Washington Medical School, then practiced medicine for more than 20 years in the Virgin Islands. She was elected a Democratic national committeewoman in 1984 and ran for delegate in 1994, losing to Victor Frazer, a Republican who ran as an independent. In 1996, she ran again. Christensen led Frazer 38%-34% on November 5, and won in a runoff, 52%-48%. It was a regional race: Christensen won 69% on St. Croix, Frazer 64% on St. Thomas and St. John. In the House, Christensen has forged alliances with the Congressional Black Caucus, and she is the first female physician to serve in Congress.
The Virgin Islands have been heavily dependent on a tax loophole that allows people from other parts of the United States to claim residency there and pay lower income taxes. In 2006, Christensen pressed for passage of a bill to recognize as Virgin Islands residents investors who spend 122 days there over three years, rather than the Treasury’s requirement of 183 days in one year. In 2007, she called the Internal Revenue Service’s audits that extended back many years “unfair” and “intrusive.” She supported a provision that was also backed by Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., that limited their audits to the preceding three years. In April 2006, Christensen passed a measure creating a border patrol unit for the Virgin Islands.
In 2007 and 2008, Christensen served as chairman of the Insular Affairs Subcommittee of the Natural Resources Committee. She worked not only on Virgin Islands issues, but also on those involving other territories. She took interest in Puerto Rico’s fight for revised status, and with Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., she co-sponsored the successful bill to provide stable immigration and minimum wage rules for the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands and to grant the CNMI a non-voting delegate in the House of Representatives.
In 2008, she got a seat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. This made her the first territorial delegate ever to have a spot on one of the five “A-list” committees. She had to give up the chairmanship of Insular Affairs. In 2008, after easily dispatching her old rival Frazer in the primary, she ran unopposed in the general election.