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Sarauw Might Soon Take Senate Seat

The saga of the St. Thomas senate seat may soon reach a conclusion with the Legislature and the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elctions meeting to discuss the latest court order.

The Legislature voted June 28 not to seat St. Thomas senate candidate Kevin Rodriquez after a majority concluded his court claim of Tennessee residency violated his V.I. residency requirement. The Senate plans to meet Friday to review the credentials of Janelle Sarauw. The St. Thomas Board of Elections is meeting Monday on the same subject.

Rodriquez, a Democrat, was certified as a candidate and won enough votes in the November, 2016 general election to win a seat. But Sarauw, an independent candidate, challenged the results in court, pointing to documents Rodriquez filed in Bankruptcy Court in Tennessee that same year, swearing under oath that he was a Tennessee resident.

The V.I. Supreme Court determined Rodriquez was “estopped” or legally prevented from claiming V.I. residency in another forum after claiming otherwise in court.

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Gov. Kenneth Mapp called a special election for the seat, which Sarauw won in April. Meanwhile, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the federal Revised Organic Act gave the V.I. Legislature sole authority to make the final decision on Rodriquez’ qualification.

At its June 28 meeting, the Legislature found Rodriquez did not meet the three-year residency requirement and voted not to seat him. Senate President Myron Jackson sent a letter to the St. Thomas Board of Elections saying there “is no longer any impediment” to the St. Thomas District Board certifying the results of the April special election, clearing the way for Sarauw to take the Senate seat that has been vacant since the beginning of the year.

The V.I. Democratic Party filed suit in federal court to try to block the Legislature’s action, arguing that the Legislature did not enact formal procedures, aside from its normal voting rules, for the decision on Rodriquez. They also argue the Legislature did not apply the legal requirements for holding the office of senator or say which one Rodriquez did not meet.

During the June 28th hearing, senators discussed the residency requirement at length and cited the residency requirement as the reason they were not seating Rodriquez.

The St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections initially had a meeting scheduled for July 20, to address the new developments.

Thursday, Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay issued a writ of mandamus ordering the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections to certify the results of the April special election, which would clear the way for Sarauw to take the empty St. Thomas seat in the Legislature.

Friday, the St. Thomas/St. John Board of Elections issued notice it had scheduled an emergency meeting for 3:30 p.m. Monday to “discuss the court order to certify the April 8, 2017, Special Election.”

Also Friday, Jackson issued notice the Legislature would convene in regular session 10 a.m. July 14 to review Sarauw’s credentials to be seated as a member of the Legislature.

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