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Republican Factions Going at Each Other Again

Both factions in the V.I. Republican Party came out Monday morning with their allegations drawn and their press releases ready to go, less than a month after the national party ordered a cease fire.

The John Canegata faction was armed with a police report that it alleges proves its side in an April physical altercation that resulted in lawsuits.

The press release says, “Director of Banking and Insurance Gwendolyn Hall Brady confessed to physically assaulting Dennis Lennox, the executive director of the Republican Party of the United States Virgin Islands, during the commotion orchestrated by Warren Bruce Cole following adjournment of the GOP Territorial Committee meeting on April 16.”

The police report specifically states that Brady “agreed to write an apology to Mr. Lennox for the bruise she inflicted on his forehead and take responsibility for her actions.”

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The press release, sent under the V.I. Republican Party Chairman John Canegata’s letterhead, also says, “Lennox declined to press a charge of criminal simple assault against Brady after she agreed to apologize and resign from the Republican Party. Under the manipulation of Cole, Redfield, John Yob, and convicted felon Herb Schoenbohm she reneged.”

This raising of allegations about an old fight seem contradictory to an order from the national party in July to cool the fight in the Virgin Islands, which had become an embarrassment to the national party.

But, it might also have been a defensive move anticipating that the other side also would come out swinging Monday. An upcoming caucus being organized by supporters of Canegata was what the other faction did swing at.

Former State Senator and Republican National Committeeman Holland Redfield said signing any loyalty oath to Donald Trump, “would be over my dead body.” Yet, signing a loyalty oath is a requirement for candidates for local party offices in the upcoming caucus, according to rules from a committee appointed by Canegata. Signing a loyalty oath is just one of the reasons some Republicans have called for a boycott of what they are calling the “Canegata Caucus” scheduled for Saturday.

Canegata said the caucus is in complete compliance with an agreement signed by members of both factions under the supervision of national party officials last month, just days before the Republican National Convention.

Warren Bruce Cole is one of the Republicans who disagrees with Canegata.

“We are not going to participate in his farce,” he said.

Cole said besides the loyalty oath, the caucus has other problems including a lack of adequate notice. He said many in the party did not learn of the caucus until last Friday, and candidates had only until Sunday to gather signatures on petitions if they wanted to be included on the ballot.

In a news release, Redfield said, "The ‘Canegata Caucus’ on August 13th is not a caucus of Republicans in the Virgin Islands, but rather a meeting of his cohorts. The violations of the RNC Agreement are numerous and are presently being documented for submission.”

Canegata said noticed was published on a website 11 days before the caucus. Cole called it an “obscure website.”

The opponents of the caucus said that, contrary to the agreement, the candidacy for offices is not opened to all the Republicans. Cole noted a rule saying, “No person convicted of a felony or other high crime and misdemeanor, including, but not limited to, crimes of fraud and moral turpitude, can stand for election as a candidate.”

“That is put in there just to bar a person Canegata does not like,” Cole said.

Canegata told the Source he is distancing himself from the running of the caucus. However, he appears to have appointed the committee that has made the rules for the caucus and he will oversee its results.

Redfield said, “The main issue is that the rules were supposed to be voted on at the convention rather than chosen by Canegata in advance.”

Cole said, “The manner that Canegata mismanaged the election of delegates to the national convention shows that he cannot honestly manage any election.”

In response to Redfield’s call for a boycott of the caucus, a news release from Canegata’s office fired back.

“This is a desperate attempt by an irrelevant malcontent to be relevant,” the release said. “The Republican Territorial Caucus on Saturday, August 13, will go ahead as planned and will be conducted independently of Canegata. The independent Caucus Committee is overseeing it in full compliance with Republican National Committee rules.”

A major disagreement between the two factions is whether rules adopted at a May 6 meeting are valid. According to the agreement signed by representatives of both factions, “It is understood that the amendments to the party’s bylaws implementing on or after May 6, 2016, giving the chairman extraordinary consent rights as to qualified voters should not be given effect.”

All this intraparty slinging of allegations still leaves residents wondering if the local party has a candidate for Delegate to Congress. Gordon Ackley and the V.I. GOP jointly filed suit last week seeking a federal District Court order telling the V.I. Election System to hold a GOP primary or place Ackley on the November ballot.

With party bickering going on and questions about how a primary should be held, Ackley did not filed prior to the May 17 deadline for candidates. He was chosen by the V.I. GOP to be its nominee for Congress at its June 11 convention on St. Thomas. However, as all things Republican in the Virgin Islands this year, the validity of that convention has been questioned.

Ackley’s suit alleges V.I. voters were disenfranchised because there was no primary.

Frederick Espinosa, who played a role in the fracas at the April meeting, is suing Brady, Schoenbohm, and Redfield for defamation. Canegata had sued Schoenbohm, Cole, and Redfield to have them stop representing themselves as the Republican Part of the Virgin Islands.

The Agreement between the factions can be viewed here.

The petition for Republicans to sign to boycott the ‘Canegata Caucus’ can be found here.

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