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V.I. Republican Convention Protested Before It Begins

Virgin Islanders don’t have to worry about excitement at the Republican National Convention coming up in Cleveland; they have all the excitement one can ask for right here in the islands. In just one week, Republican partisans have filed three legal moves at Superior Court against each other.

Republican Party Chairman John Canegata upped the ante Thursday, calling a gathering set for Saturday on St. Thomas of those who oppose him an “illegal gathering.”

In a statement released Thursday, Canegata says, "This illegitimate, unlawful gathering has no basis under either territorial law or party rules. The organizers are illegally using the name of the Republican Party to defraud unsuspecting voters and undermine the Republican National Committee-recognized state party of the Virgin Islands. This is a gathering of the Schoenbaum (sic) party – not the Republican Party," referring to Herb Schoenbohm and a group of other members of the GOP that have been elected to serve in various ways and have all been delegates to the National Convention in the past.

The people that Canegata names as the organizers of the Saturday convention are the same named in suit filed in Superior Court on May 18 by Canegata and Robert Max Schanfarber. They include along with Schoenbohm, Holland Redfield, James Oliver, Fred Vialet Jr., Leigh F. Goldman and Warren B. Cole.

On Tuesday, Schoenbohm sent a public notice to the press titled Republican Territorial Convention.  It welcomed “all registered V.I. Republicans” to participate, and gave the date, time and place as Saturday, 11 a.m. at Windward Passage Hotel on St. Thomas.

The notice indicated that one could register as a delegate by emailing name, address and phone number before Thursday at 8 p.m. to usviGOPconvention@gmail.com or to register by phone at (340) 713-9866 or (340) 277-1126.

Canegata said in his Thursday statement, “Herb Schoenbaum, who issued the fraudulent call to the illegal gathering, was removed when the Territorial Committee unanimously amended its rules on May 6 to prohibit convicted felons from holding either membership or party office.”

“Schoenbaum is a felon convicted of fraud,” Canegata wrote.

Schoenbohm was convicted of fraudulent use of telephone codes 24 years ago. He has been a member of the Republican Party and on the Territorial Committee since the 1970s.

But Schoenbohm has not been the only one cast out of the Party.

In his statement, Canegata said, “Warren Bruce Cole, Leigh Goldman, Holland Redfield, Fred Vialet Jr. and James Oliver – were removed with immediate effect Thursday as members of the Republican Party, pursuant to the Rules, Principles and Policies of the Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands.

When read that statement, Schoenbohm said Thursday evening, “He can’t do that. They have all been elected by the people. They have given their time and have served for years.”

In regards to the May 18 lawsuit, Mark Eckard, who is representing the Canegata faction in this matter, said, "This action was necessary because the name and emblem of one of America’s two nationally recognized parties is being unlawfully used to mislead USVI voters into believing that a group of rogue individuals is the Republican Party.”

On Wednesday, the defendants in the May 18 lawsuit countered with a motion to dismiss. The defendants claim they are the representatives of the Republican Party in the Virgin Islands. The motion also says all the plaintiff’s assertions are based on rules that were passed at a meeting of questionable legality. They also cite a meeting of their own where a majority of Territorial Committee voted no confidence in the leadership of Canegata.

On Tuesday, the defendants also filed a motion in “Opposition to Emergency Motion” made by the plaintiffs.

In a related case, Yob vs Board of Elections, local attorney Scott McChain filed a motion for sanctions against John and Erica Yob and Ethan and Lindsey Eilon on May 20. The Yobs and Lindsey Eilon were among the highest vote getters in the March 10 Republican delegation.

Canegata is trying to replace them with alternate delegates. McChain’s motion alleges that the four plaintiffs have committed “fraud against the people.”

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