A member of the USVI GOP certification committee issued a formal letter on behalf of the party this week certifying one slate of delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland later this year, while the state chairman issued a statement Wednesday on behalf of the party with a different list of delegates.
The two competing delegate lists are the latest wrinkle in a deepening rift within the party and growing confusion as to who represents it, that began with the disqualification of four newly arrived V.I. residents.
On March 4, Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes disqualified John Yob and Ethan Eilon, both prominent career GOP campaign consultants, and their wives, Erica Yob and Lindsay Eilon, from registering to vote in the territory yet, saying they did not meet a 90-day residency requirement. The V.I. Superior Court has since directed the territory to reinstate their V.I. voting rights, pending more hearings later.
The court issued a temporary order March 9, reinstating their voting rights provisionally. All four were candidates to be V.I. delegates to the Republican National Convention later this year.
The Eilons and Yobs, who very recently moved to the territory, are in the process of seeking V.I. Economic Development Commission tax breaks for companies they plan to establish in the territory, John Yob and Ethan Eilon have confirmed to the Source.
Yob just published a book about manipulating chaos at the 2016 Republican National Convention. His book published in February, titled "Chaos: The Outsider’s Guide to a Contested Republican Convention," makes a case that what happens in the U.S. territories, including the USVI, may make the difference between "chaos" and "catastrophe" for the GOP at the national convention. (See: New GOP Arrivals Removed from Voter Lists over Residency)
In his court filings, Yob accused St. Croix Board of Elections Chairwoman Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal of influencing Fawkes to disqualify them. Belardo de O’Neal does not have authority to give direction to Fawkes.
Three of the four newcomers were among the top six vote-getters at the USVI GOP caucus on March 10, winning them slots at the national convention.
On March 22, V.I. Superior Court upheld their voting rights.
That same day, V.I. GOP State Chairman John Canegata issued a statement saying all six original delegates were disqualified because they did not accept their positions in writing within five days of winning their bids.
James Oliver, a member of the V.I. GOP subcommittee that certifies party elections, issued a statement disputing Canegata’s action, saying that "(n)o report from the Dispute Subcommittee has been received. Accordingly, no notification of selection has been given or could yet be given … . Accordingly the five day time period for acceptance … has not yet begun to run …."
Then on March 26, Oliver sent Yob and others a document titled "Notice of Report of Certification of Election, Virgin Islands Republican Caucus – 2016" that says the Dispute Subcommittee had reported back March 23 and found no issue to dispute. He asserts that this confirms the caucus-night results and says they "have five days from this date (i.e. until Thursday, March 31, 2016,) within which to confirm your acceptance as Delegates and Alternates …."
The territory has nine delegates to the convention. Three comprise party officers, Canegata, Holland Redfield and de O’Neal, who serve automatically due to their positions.
Oliver’s letter [Oliver Letter] lists the following delegates in addition to those party officers: John Yob, Gwen Brady, Warren Cole, Erica Yob, George Logan and Lindsey Eilon. All are uncommitted to any candidate. He lists six alternate delegates: David Johnson, uncommitted; Valerie Stiles, pledged for Marco Rubio; Andrea Lee Moeekel, uncommitted; Humberto O’Neal, pledged for Marco Rubio; Steven Hardy, pledged for Donald Trump; and Robert Max Schanfarber, pledged for Ted Cruz.
These are the same ones who received the most votes the day of the caucus.
Just before 10 p.m. Wednesday, Canegata issued what he termed an "official memorandum" on the situation, that also says the party’s dispute subcommittee issued a resolution March 23 and found no issue to address. But his memo interprets the March 23 resolution to effectively uphold his March 22 disqualification of all six winners. [Canegata Memorandum]
Canegata dismisses Oliver’s action, saying the "March 27 opinion of one lone member of the Certification Subcommittee, James Oliver, is just that: The singular opinion of one lone member of the Certification Subcommittee, which itself doesn’t even have the jurisdiction under Rules 9 and 10 to hear ‘disputes and challenges.’"
"Moreover, not only is James Oliver not a member of the Dispute Subcommittee, but he wasn’t even physically present at the caucus. He didn’t participate in any way, shape or form in the deliberations of the Certification Subcommittee. This puts him in a dubious position to opine on the affairs of either the caucus itself or the Certification Subcommittee," Canegata wrote.
Canegata says the certification subcommittee "certified the final tally in the immediate aftermath of the caucus" and issues a different list of delegates:
"The following six delegates and six alternate delegates will join Canegata, National Committeewoman Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal and National Committeeman Holland Redfield as members of the Virgin Islands delegation to the Republican National Convention: Delegates David Johnson, Valerie Stiles, Andrea Lee Moeekel, Humberto O’Neal, Steven Hardy and Max Schanfarber; Alternate Delegates April Newland, Garfield Doran, Joshua Schanfarber, Jevon Williams, Theresa Schanfarber and Todd Hecht." Canegata issued the statement representing the V.I. GOP.
The dispute committee resolution, provided along with Canegata’s memorandum, has a March 23 date, but has signatures on it dated March 26 and March 31. It makes no mention of Canegata’s March 22 disqualification of the entire slate, but say "there were no dispute or challenges … that impacted the final tally" and "its previous decision in the immediate aftermath was and remains its final decision."
A follow-up email sent at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday to Canegata asking for clarification of whether the resolution addressed his decision to disqualify six of the winners had not been answered as of 1 a.m. Thursday. An email to John Yob, asking for comment, sent around the same time, had not yet been answered by 1 a.m. either.
Oliver responded to a request for comment, saying that his "report is based on the written Rules of the Virgin Islands Republican Caucus."
As of Thursday, there appear to still be two competing slates of delegates to represent the V.I. GOP at the Republican National Convention.