Regardless of a suggestion by a local party official, the Republican National Committee is standing firm on its decision to mandate the Virgin Islands party hold a caucus this month to choose territorial party leaders.
In response to requests for comment from the Source earlier last week, the RNC’s chief counsel, Justin Riemer, issued this statement late Friday afternoon:
“The caucus will be held on March 29 as announced. The Republican Party of the Virgin Islands voted unanimously at a recent meeting to hold the caucus and for the RNC Counsel’s office to administer it. The RNC is happy to provide the Board with additional details regarding the caucus process. Ultimately, conducting this caucus is consistent with precedent in the USVI and a political party’s rights under the Constitution to manage their own internal affairs. We hope all registered Virgin Islands Republicans come out and vote on March 29 and look forward to the Virgin Islands being represented on the RNC at the earliest possible time.”
The “Board” referenced is the Virgin Islands Board of Elections.
V.I. Party Chair John Canegata had suggested that the caucus might be canceled in favor of electing party officers in an August primary, in light of a letter he had received from the Elections Board. At the time, he said he was seeking legal advice and advice from his associates before making a decision.
Canegata has not returned messages from the Source seeking to follow up.
Meanwhile, Raymond Williams, the chairman of the VI Board of Elections and the man who wrote to Canegata March 9, said Saturday that the board takes no position on whether party officers should be chosen in a primary or in a caucus.
Its concern is solely that the selection method is fair and transparent and “that the voters’ will is truly represented,” he said.
In his letter to Canegata, Williams cited V.I. law concerning primaries and a section that states, “The Board of Elections will be responsible for certifying the process to be used by any political party to select party officers and candidates for public office.”
He expressly asked Canegata in the letter to submit a caucus plan to the Board for approval.
With the caucus less than two weeks away, time is now short for submitting a plan, and the national group has apparently decided to take on that task itself.
The RNC counsel office staff person who sent Reimer’s response to the Source, Mandy Lester, answered a question about the plan, emailing, “The RNC will be providing additional information regarding the caucus to the Board.”
The caucus vote is meant to settle a rift in the local party between two factions that have been feuding for several years.
Gordon Ackley, who opposes Canegata and is making a bid to replace him as chairman, charged that Canegata’s suggestion of possibly canceling the caucus was a political maneuver meant to prevent Ackley from unseating him.
Canegata had told the Source last week, “I prefer to beat Ackley in August.”
That preference notwithstanding, the RNC says the candidates and others will face off in the caucus this month.
The RNC has announced one caucus site on each of the three main islands: Company House Hotel on St. Croix, American Legion Post #131 on St. John, and Bluebeard’s Castle Hotel on St. Thomas. Voting is open to registered Republicans and is to take place from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on March 29. More details are available at the website www.vicaucus.gop.