In a letter written Saturday to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, V.I. GOP Chairman John Canegata announced that the V.I. delegation to the 2016 Republican National Convention will include the six delegates who were awarded their spots after the original caucus winners were disqualified.
The letter bears the official logo of the V.I. Republican Party and the message “paid for the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands.”
The delegation, which Canegata calls in the letter “the one, true delegation of the Virgin Islands,” consists of the following members: David Johnson, Valerie Stiles, Andrea Lee Moeekel, Humberto O’Neal, Steven K. Hardy, Robert Max Schanfarber, National Committeewoman Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, National Committeeman Holland Redfield and Canegata.
“Having fully complied with the rules of the Virgin Islands Republican Party GOP National Convention Caucus March 10, the delegation has the full legal recognition of the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands,” the letter reads.
The letter directly contradicts a Friday news release issued by John Yob, one of the delegates disqualified by Canegata, which claimed a party subcommittee had that day released a formal report in favor of the disqualified delegates.
Yob’s release lists the official delegates determined by the V.I. GOP dispute subcommittee as John P. Yob, Gwen Brady, Warren B. Cole, Erica L. Yob, George Logan, and Lindsey Eilon.
"The process in the rules is very clear and the dispute committee has ruled unanimously that we are the proper delegates to be seated in Cleveland [at the Republican National Convention],” Yob said when reached for comment.
Included with Friday’s press release from Yob was an undated document signed by three members of the party’s dispute subcommittee stating that all disputes and challenges issued on March 12 to the results of the V.I. GOP’s caucus had been rejected.
It made no mention of how this would affect the disqualification of the caucus winners, as the challenges issued on March 12 came from then-alternate delegate Valerie Stiles and Yob himself.
When contacted about the dispute subcommittee document, Canegata said it was “the first the party had seen of it.”
“This undated document was never released by the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands or even provided to party leadership. It is not an official action of the Dispute Subcommittee, which I chair and consists of five total members,” he said.
The selection of the V.I.’s delegates to the Republican National Convention has been embroiled in controversy since before the territory’s caucus was held.
Three of the caucus’s top vote-getters – Yob, his wife Erica, and their friend Lindsey Eilon — are fighting a challenge to their voting eligibility in court, which has implications for their eligibility as candidates in the caucus. On March 4, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes sent a letter to the V.I. Republican Party disqualifying their candidacies based on their brief length of residency in the territory.
The Yobs and Elion are all veteran GOP consultants and campaign strategists who recently relocated to the territory. Yob has published a book titled "Chaos: The Outsider’s Guide to a Contested Republican Convention," in which he makes a case that what happens in the U.S. territories may make the difference between "chaos" and "catastrophe" for the GOP at the national convention.
When a V.I. superior court judge provisionally upheld the Yobs’ and Eilon’s eligibility as delegate candidates on March 22, Canegata moved to disqualify all six delegates elected on March 10 based on a procedural issue. None of the delegates, he said, had responded in writing confirming their willingness to serves within five days of the caucus’s results being announced.
That, too, has prompted party in-fighting. Yob, backed by some members of the local GOP, said the party did not follow the correct process to certify the caucus results.
Rules for the 2016 V.I. GOP Caucus state: “Final certification of the results shall be made once it is determined that no practical differences in results can be obtained by any reasonable resolution of the status of provisional ballots and pending disputes or challenges.”
Yob said the party’s dispute subcommittee had never ruled on challenges issued on March 12, and thus the certification committee could not move to make the caucus results official.
Canegata says the certification subcommittee did in fact act to make the final tally official directly following the caucus because “there were no dispute or challenges in the immediate aftermath that could have made a practical difference in the results.”
The dispute subcommittee, he said, passed an official resolution memorializing the fact that it found it had no business to conduct.
“The Certification Subcommittee gave its final certification on March 11, which under Rule 11 required delegates and alternates to provide a written declaration accepting their election and confirming their willingness to serve as a member of the Virgin Islands delegation to the Republican National Convention on or before March 16,” Canegata said Sunday.
“The six delegates failed to comply with Rule 11 and, as a result, were automatically disqualified and replaced with alternate delegates who complied with the well-established caucus rules.”