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HomeNewsArchivesElections Challenges Arise for Diase Coffelt, Basil Ottley

Elections Challenges Arise for Diase Coffelt, Basil Ottley

With the primary election less than a month away, the eligibilty of some gubernatorial candidates is being called into question, but Elections System officials said Wednesday that nothing – not even pulling a candidate’s name from the ballot – is going to hold up the process.

Candidate Soraya Diase Coffelt has been waging her battle in court for the past month, but was dealt a blow earlier this week after the V.I. District Court upheld an Elections System ruling that disqualified her from the race. In early June, Diase Coffelt switched her running mate from Warren Mosler to Republican John Canegata, who Elections officials contested could not appear on the same ticket as the independent.

Diase Coffelt challenged the ruling in federal court and was at first granted a temporary restraining order until District Court Judge Wilma Lewis considered whether to grant a permanent injunction. In the meantime, Elections’ printed sample ballots that did not include the names of the mixed-party team, and officials said Wednesday – after Lewis issued a ruling upholding the Elections System’s decision to disqualify Diase Coffelt and Canegata – that they would not include their names on the ballot for the General Election.

“Because it was under contention at the time this sample was being printed, we did not put their names in,” Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said Wednesday. “Now that it has been confirmed by the court, they will not be included in either this final printout or in the general election.”

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In her ruling Tuesday, Lewis wrote that while the law does not specifically address the candidates’ situation, Fawkes’ original ruling “that registered and enrolled party member may not not run as independent candidates is worthy of respect because of its persuasive value.” Lewis added that Fawkes’ ruling also does not violate either the U.S. Constitution or the territory’s Revised Organic Act.

The Diase Coffelt/Canegata camp fired back with a release Wednesday saying that they would be taking their case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where it will be heard by a “three judge panel.”

“My running mate John Canegata and I are undaunted by the District Court’s July 7, 2014, decision that would keep us off the ballot,” Diase Coffelt said in the release. “We see it as just another hurdle to overcome as we continue to fight to make sure that the voices of the people are heard. Our team of lawyers and advisors has studied the issues and we believe that the District Court’s decision should not stand.”

Elections officials have said that Canegata’s name will continue to appear on the primary ballot for Republican Party state chairman.

While that battle looks to be winding up, another could just be starting for candidate Basil Ottley Jr., who does currently appear on the primary election ballot as the running mate for gubernatorial candidate Donna Christensen. Ottley is the focus of a challenge brought by candiate Moleto Smith Jr., who has questioned Ottley’s eligibility based on local residency requirements.

Candidates for lieutenant governor have to be, among other things, an eligible voter in the territory five years preceeding an election, and Smith has claimed that Ottley was working for the Department of the Interior and living on the mainland during that time.

The Ottley/Christensen camp refuted the claims in a statement Tuesday, saying that Ottley not only meets the Organic Act’s residency requirements but has also voted in the territory in a local primary or general election every election year since 2008.

Elections officials added Wednesday that every candidate has to pass a preliminary check within the system – if Ottley didn’t pass it, he wouldn’t have been included on the ballot, which has already been certified. Any challenge would have had to be filed five days after nominations petitions were filed and that deadline expired May 14, according to Elections.

Whether the issue will also make its way to the courts is yet to be seen.

In the Delegate to Congress race, candidate Emmett Hansen II is waiting for the Federal Elections Commission to respond to a complaint filed against opponent Stacey Plaskett, who he claims violated federal elections laws. Last week, a webpage for Plaskett’s campaign appeared to be crossed with the email alerts section on Gov. John deJongh Jr’s current site, but the company working with Plaskett has since said the situation is the result of a computer glitch. Government House has also since launched its own investigation and has removed the link.

In other news, St. Croix Board of Elections member Adelbert Bryan Jr. continues his battle in local and federal courts challenging the eligibility of Alicia “Chucky” Hansen to run for Senate. Bryan is suing Fawkes for allowing Hansen to run despite her three misdemeanor tax convictions.

Bryan’s initial challenge, filed in 2012, was rejected by the Elections System with then supervisor John Abramson Jr. ruling that the convictions do not qualify as a “crime of moral turpitude.”

Elections System officials said Wednesday that they could not comment on Bryan’s cases, since they are currently pending in the courts.

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With the primary election less than a month away, the eligibilty of some gubernatorial candidates is being called into question, but Elections System officials said Wednesday that nothing – not even pulling a candidate's name from the ballot – is going to hold up the process.

Candidate Soraya Diase Coffelt has been waging her battle in court for the past month, but was dealt a blow earlier this week after the V.I. District Court upheld an Elections System ruling that disqualified her from the race. In early June, Diase Coffelt switched her running mate from Warren Mosler to Republican John Canegata, who Elections officials contested could not appear on the same ticket as the independent.

Diase Coffelt challenged the ruling in federal court and was at first granted a temporary restraining order until District Court Judge Wilma Lewis considered whether to grant a permanent injunction. In the meantime, Elections' printed sample ballots that did not include the names of the mixed-party team, and officials said Wednesday – after Lewis issued a ruling upholding the Elections System's decision to disqualify Diase Coffelt and Canegata – that they would not include their names on the ballot for the General Election.

“Because it was under contention at the time this sample was being printed, we did not put their names in,” Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes said Wednesday. “Now that it has been confirmed by the court, they will not be included in either this final printout or in the general election.”

In her ruling Tuesday, Lewis wrote that while the law does not specifically address the candidates' situation, Fawkes' original ruling “that registered and enrolled party member may not not run as independent candidates is worthy of respect because of its persuasive value.” Lewis added that Fawkes' ruling also does not violate either the U.S. Constitution or the territory's Revised Organic Act.

The Diase Coffelt/Canegata camp fired back with a release Wednesday saying that they would be taking their case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where it will be heard by a “three judge panel.”

“My running mate John Canegata and I are undaunted by the District Court’s July 7, 2014, decision that would keep us off the ballot,” Diase Coffelt said in the release. “We see it as just another hurdle to overcome as we continue to fight to make sure that the voices of the people are heard. Our team of lawyers and advisors has studied the issues and we believe that the District Court’s decision should not stand.”

Elections officials have said that Canegata's name will continue to appear on the primary ballot for Republican Party state chairman.

While that battle looks to be winding up, another could just be starting for candidate Basil Ottley Jr., who does currently appear on the primary election ballot as the running mate for gubernatorial candidate Donna Christensen. Ottley is the focus of a challenge brought by candiate Moleto Smith Jr., who has questioned Ottley's eligibility based on local residency requirements.

Candidates for lieutenant governor have to be, among other things, an eligible voter in the territory five years preceeding an election, and Smith has claimed that Ottley was working for the Department of the Interior and living on the mainland during that time.

The Ottley/Christensen camp refuted the claims in a statement Tuesday, saying that Ottley not only meets the Organic Act's residency requirements but has also voted in the territory in a local primary or general election every election year since 2008.

Elections officials added Wednesday that every candidate has to pass a preliminary check within the system – if Ottley didn't pass it, he wouldn't have been included on the ballot, which has already been certified. Any challenge would have had to be filed five days after nominations petitions were filed and that deadline expired May 14, according to Elections.

Whether the issue will also make its way to the courts is yet to be seen.

In the Delegate to Congress race, candidate Emmett Hansen II is waiting for the Federal Elections Commission to respond to a complaint filed against opponent Stacey Plaskett, who he claims violated federal elections laws. Last week, a webpage for Plaskett's campaign appeared to be crossed with the email alerts section on Gov. John deJongh Jr's current site, but the company working with Plaskett has since said the situation is the result of a computer glitch. Government House has also since launched its own investigation and has removed the link.

In other news, St. Croix Board of Elections member Adelbert Bryan Jr. continues his battle in local and federal courts challenging the eligibility of Alicia “Chucky” Hansen to run for Senate. Bryan is suing Fawkes for allowing Hansen to run despite her three misdemeanor tax convictions.

Bryan's initial challenge, filed in 2012, was rejected by the Elections System with then supervisor John Abramson Jr. ruling that the convictions do not qualify as a “crime of moral turpitude.”

Elections System officials said Wednesday that they could not comment on Bryan's cases, since they are currently pending in the courts.