Michigan Political Consultant Wins Battle To Have His Delegates Slate Seated By Virgin Islands G.O.P.
WINNER: John Yob of Michigan
CRUZ BAY — A months-long battle over who would represent the Virgin Islands at next week’s Republican National Convention — a fight somewhat oddly involving several Michigan political consultants — has finally been worked out, with well-known strategist John Yob’s slate of delegates being seated by the Contests Committee.
In a sudden turn, the Contests Committee on Wednesday morning released a negotiated settlement between factions led by Yob and John Canegata, the chairman of the Virgin Islands Republican Party who had opposed the Yob slate’s being seated.
That agreement saw Canegata apparently not only accepting that Yob, his wife and several others allied to Yob will be seated as delegates to help decide the presidential nomination next week but that Canegata himself will stand for a new election as territorial chairman within three months’ time.
“It would be inappropriate to dance on any graves but it would also be fair to say I’m very happy with the result and view it as a victory across the board,” Yob said on Wednesday. “It has been a long road, and this process evolved from simply trying to be a delegate to a matter of honest election processes.”
Canegata — who earlier this week put out a statement vowing to fight as long as necessary to prevent the seating of Yob and his slate, which make up five of the six delegates elected at the March 10 caucus — said in a release Wednesday he dropped his challenge, despite believing that Yob, his wife and a third delegate were ineligible because they were registered to vote elsewhere at the time of the caucus and did not meet residency requirements in the predominately Democratic group of islands.
“With the Democrat-controlled Joint Board of Elections (in the Virgin Islands) refusing to defend the integrity of the Virgin Islands election law, it is impossible to definitely decide the eligibility of John Yob, Erica Yob and Lindsey Elion absent a ruling from the Virgin Islands Supreme Court hearing held Tuesday,” Canegata said. Also rejected was an argument that Yob and the others hadn’t responded to a notice of their election in a timely manner.
A lower-court judge in the Virgin Islands ruled last week that there was no requirement in the territory that a voter live there for a set period of time before he or she was allowed to register to vote — and presumably stand as a delegate — only that he or she will have lived there for the required 90 days by the time of the next election.
While the Virgin Islands has no Electoral College votes, both political parties give it and other U.S. territories delegates for selecting their presidential candidates. The Virgin Islands has nine delegates out of a total of 2,472 delegates to the Republican National Convention.
The fight over the seating of delegates in the Virgin Islands arose after Yob, a west Michigan native who has worked on several national political campaigns, most recently Sen. Rand Paul’s this year, wrote in a recent book titled “Chaos: The Outsider’s Guide to a Contested Republican National Convention” that it would be possible for a territory to have an oversized impact by electing uncommitted delegates to a brokered convention.
Many strategists, including Yob, thought 2016’s crowded Republican presidential field might lead to such a contested convention before businessman Donald Trump effectively sewed up the nomination two months ago. While a contested convention after that became unlikely, Yob — who has since committed to Trump — and the others could still have taken on a larger role by virtue of having seats on key convention committees, like those setting the rules, had Canegata not moved to disqualify them.
Now, because of the late settlement, neither slate’s members will be able to vote on convention committee matters.
Still, Yob’s slate of delegates won a clear victory with the agreement Wednesday, despite accusations that he and his allies were attempting a takeover of the territorial party. Contests Committee officials two weeks ago wrote a scathing report regarding the dispute, chastising Canegata as well as those on Yob’s slate, criticizing them for “months of contentious, unprofessional infighting.”
“Seemingly every week, news arises of more alleged misbehavior by both factions — including acts of assault, threats, defamation, fraud, subterfuge and misuse of party rules,” the committee’s report said. “(T)his is no laughing matter. The soap opera is a blight on the U.S. Virgin Islands Republican Party. This continued mischief from the Virgin Islands must end, immediately — starting at the top of the party.”
Per the agreement announced by the Contests Committee, Canegata will serve as chairman of the delegation to the Republican National Convention, so he will announce the delegates’ votes. Yob’s slate had elected national committeeman Holland Redfield — who had blasted Trump as not being an inclusive enough leader for the party — as its chairman.
Yob and his wife moved their family to St. John in the Virgin Islands months ago — the precise time of the move being debated as part of the delegate fight — with his children attending school there and the Yobs setting up residence. At the same time, he began an effort to have himself and his wife, along with several other allies, elected delegates.
Throughout the spring, the delegate fight in the Virgin Islands led to court cases and national TV coverage, not only from mainstream outlets but from others included Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.” At one point, during a fractious meeting caught on video, complaints of physical violence were raised at a territorial meeting and the validity of Canegata’s standing as chairman was raised by his opponents.
Complicating the Michigan connection was the fact that Canegata had years earlier reached an agreement — apparently on the party’s behalf, though that, too, was questioned — with former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis to advise it on a direct mail fund-raising campaign both to raise money for a newly created political action committee run by Canegata and, presumably, the territorial party.
That PAC — named VIGOP — owes more than $250,000 to vendors associated with the direct mail campaign and potentially tens, if not hundreds, of thousands more to Anuzis, though he told the Free Press this week that he is not actively attempting to collect those funds. Anuzis and Yob have long been known to be adversaries at different times in the Michigan party’s recent history, though they have also worked together at some points.
“The reality is it’s a small local party that wanted to get on its feet,” Anuzis said, adding that the battle over delegates’ seating “has nothing to do” with him getting paid. He credited an earlier Contests Committee report which also moved to seat the Yob slate — and which Anuzis had expected to be fought out before the full Republican National Committee — to Yob’s connections and his presentation having “successfully muddied the issue.”
Also, another Michigan political consultant, Dennis Lennox, considered by many an ally of Anuzis’, has, liked Yob, moved to St. John and set up residence there, taking a Canegata-appointed position with the territorial party.
Yob’s father, Chuck Yob, is a well-known political operative in Michigan and longtime former member of the Republican National Committee, who has criticized Anuzis in the past. He was elected this year as a delegate for Ohio Gov. John Kasich and is one of Michigan’s members on the powerful Credentials Committee for next week’s convention in Cleveland.