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RNC Threatens John Canegata With Criminal and Civil Legal Action

A six-page cease and desist letter from the top lawyer for the national Republican Party threatened John Canegata with legal action.

The letter, sent by Republican National Committee chief counsel Justin Riemer, comes after the national party recognized Gordon Ackley as chairman of its V.I. affiliate following Ackley’s win in a territorial caucus on March 29.

Canegata filed a lawsuit in V.I. Superior Court after the caucus, claiming the caucus was “illegal” and that Ackley wasn’t the lawful and legitimate chairman even though Canegata previously agreed to the
holding of the caucus.

The RNC wholly rejects Canegata’s claim, calling any assertion that he remains chairman “fictitious.”

“You and the organizations you lead or purport to lead have not acted in a manner consistent with the RNC’s good reputation nor did you act in good faith as the RNC assisted the territorial party with holding elections for party office,” Riemer said in his cease and desist letter. “On August 22, 2020, the RNC ceased to recognize you as chairman of its affiliate in the United States Virgin Islands or as a
member of the RNC until and unless a new election could be held. “Following the August 2020 decision, the RNC initiated contact with you to begin the planning process for holding new elections. The Counsel’s Office, Chairman McDaniel, and RNC members, including myself, attempted to work with you for nearly two years to effectuate such an election. Despite providing input on the process, calling for and presiding over the state committee meeting authorizing a new caucus, and voting for said caucus, you chose not to participate in the caucus and instead actively sought to undermine the process by being nonresponsive, publicly hurling false accusations at the RNC, and attempting to suppress voter turnout. It was our sincere hope that you would run for chairman. By choosing not to file as a candidate, you essentially guaranteed the race for chairman would be uncontested, and now, just because the results were not close, you cannot cry foul. You were free to choose not to participate in the caucus, but you must now abide by the results. You are no longer chairman of the RNC affiliate in the Virgin Islands, and you must stop holding yourself out as such.”

According to the RNC, the scam PAC that Canegata operates has fraudulently raised over $400,000 under the V.I. Republican Party name since it ended recognition of Canegata in 2020.

“Your unauthorized uses of the RNC’s name and intellectual property and the manner in which you have used them, to promote a party committee website, to issue meeting notices, and to raise money for a federal political action committee, are deceptive and likely to lead individuals to believe that you and your organizations are affiliated with the RNC, when they are not, and that the RNC recognizes or
provides financial support to those organizations, when it does not,” Riemer said. “Moreover, false representations that solicitations are being made for the benefit of the Republican Party is a federal crime, punishable by fines or imprisonment of up to 20 years.”

Canegata was given until Friday to comply with the RNC’s cease and desist demands.

Separately, the full RNC is meeting this week in Memphis, Tennessee.

As previously reported by the Virgin Islands Free Press, Ackley, National Committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams, and National Committeewoman Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht were seated by the national party at the meeting.

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Ackley Wins Republican Caucus; Gumbs-Hecht Gets The Most Votes

Political newcomer Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht was the top vote-getter in the caucus to reconstitute the V.I. Republican Party.

The St. Thomas real estate agent and mother of two bested April Newland — ironically her boss at Newland Real Estate — with 90 percent of the vote.

“It is humbling and a great honor to be entrusted with the voice of my fellow Republicans as their next national committeewoman,” Gumbs-Hecht said. “I also want to thank the Republican National Committee for making a significant investment to ensure a free, fair and honest election.”

Ackley Wins Republican Caucus; Gumbs-Hecht Gets The Most Votes
Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht (right) and friend (Photo: Facebook)

In the other contested territory-wide race, incumbent National Committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams defeated ex-V.I. Public Service Commissioner Johann (John) Clendenin 88 percent to 12 percent. Both
are St. Croix residents.

“I am thankful for voters reelecting me,” Williams said. “I will continue giving voice to the unique issues facing the Virgin Islands and the other territories at the highest levels of the Republican
Party.”

Gordon Ackley won election as party chairman after John Canegata failed to file.

Twenty other candidates won seats on the State Committee.

As previously reported, the caucus was conducted by the RNC after it expelled Canegata and suspended recognition of the territorial party in 2020. Ackley, Gumbs-Hecht and Williams will be seated by the RNC at its April meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.

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BREAKING: National Republicans To Seat Caucus Winners; Lawyers Threaten John Canegata With Legal Action

The Republican National Committee threatened legal action against John Canegata on the eve of a territorial caucus to reconstitute the territorial Republican Party.

The warning was delivered in an email message from RNC Chief Counsel Justin Riemer after Canegata announced he wouldn’t recognize the results.

“The RNC hereby puts you on legal notice to preserve all relevant documents, text messages, voicemails, emails, and any other records from January 1, 2016 through the present related to your leadership of the VIGOP, including any records related to the 2016, 2020, and 2022 party caucuses,” Reimer said. “Any failure by you to relinquish control over the state party or any of its assets following certification of the caucus will be met with appropriate legal action.”

BREAKING: National Republicans To Seat Caucus Winners; Lawyers Threaten John Canegata With Legal Action

Voting in the caucus will be held from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 29 (today) at the Company House Hotel in Christiansted, Bluebeard’s Castle on St. Thomas and American Legion Post 131 on St. John.

The caucus is being conducted by RNC lawyers to elect a chairman, national committeewoman, national committeeman, and 20 State Committee members.

Gordon Ackley is the only candidate for chairman. He has formed a slate with Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht for national committeewoman and incumbent National Committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams, who succeeded the late Holland Redfield in 2016. Challenging Gumbs-Hecht and Williams
are April Newland and John Clendenin.

The RNC says it will seat the winners in time for the national party’s April meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.

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BREAKING NEWS: Gordon Ackley Will Win GOP Caucus Without Opposition

The longstanding intra-party fight for the leadership of the V.I. Republican Party was settled this week without a contested election.

St. Thomas businessman Gordon Ackley will assume the chairmanship after John Canegata failed to file by the March 22 deadline, the Virgin Islands Free Press has learned exclusively.

Canegata, who won the party chairmanship in 2012 after defeating the now-deceased Herb Schoenbohm in the August primary election, had been expelled from the Republican National Committee at the 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Back in January, when RNC lawyers from Washington first announced the caucus to reorganize the defunct party, he had been expected to campaign for the position, which was to be elected along with the territorial party’s national committeeman, national committeewoman, and 20 members of the State (Territorial) Committee. However, Ackley outmaneuvered him and quickly assembled a full slate of 23 candidates, including himself. Canegata was unable to find sufficient support to run for reelection.

Ackley made rebuilding the V.I. GOP into a real political party that would challenge majority Democrats a central plank of his campaign.

While Ackley is without an opponent, National Committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams, of St. Croix, faces John Clendenin, also of St. Croix.

Meanwhile, Ackley-endorsed candidate Antoinette Gumbs Hecht, of St. Thomas, is being challenged by St. Thomas real estate agent April Newland for the vacant national committeewoman slot. Like Canegata, long-time National Committeewoman and former St. Croix territorial Sen. Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal also failed to file for the caucus.

The RNC will go ahead with the caucus, despite Canegata not running.

Polls will be open March 29 from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Company House Hotel on St. Croix, Bluebeard’s Castle on St. Thomas and American Legion Post 131 on St. John.

All registered Republicans are eligible to cast a ballot. No absentee voting is allowed.

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RNC-Run Virgin Islands Republican Caucus Going Forward, Despite Suppression Efforts

A territorial caucus on March 29 to reorganize the Republican Party in the U.S. Virgin Islands is going ahead as planned, according to sources with knowledge of the caucus.

The caucus, which was first reported by the Virgin Islands Free Press, is being administered by lawyers from the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C.

It follows a 2020 ruling by the Republican National Committee to cease recognition of its V.I. affiliate, which had been led by St. Croix’s John Canegata.

Despite having agreed in January to the rules and framework being used by the Republican National Committee to conduct this month’s caucus, Canegata has been working behind the scenes to scuttle the caucus by getting the Democrat-controlled V.I. Board of Elections to refuse recognition of the caucus results. Canegata would rather compete in the August primary election.

Canegata is opposed in the caucus by Gordon Ackley of St. Thomas.

“It hasn’t been easy being a Republican in the Virgin Islands in recent years as our party ceased to exist with no leadership, no ideas, and no candidates,” Ackley said by email. “The caucus will have the effect of wiping the slate clean and starting anew.”

Also running with Ackley are Jevon O.A. Williams for reelection as national committeeman, Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht for election as national committeewoman, and a full slate of 20 candidates for the State (Territorial) Committee.

“I believe the Virgin Islands are still worth fighting for,” Williams said. “I want Republicans to stand up and make their voices heard on the issues and challenges facing our territory.”

Registered Republican voters can cast an in-person ballot between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. March 29 at the Company House Hotel in Christiansted, Bluebeard’s Castle on St. Thomas and American Legion Post 131 on St. John.

Under Canegata, who assumed the territorial party chairmanship in 2014 after defeating the now-deceased Herb Schoenbohm, Republicans became an endangered species with virtually no candidates nominated for any major office.

While Democrats have long been the majority party, the U.S. Virgin Islands has elected Republicans. It wasn’t that long ago when there were Republican senators in the Legislature to form a minority caucus.

Today, the V.I. Legislature is the only partisan-elected state or territorial legislature in the country without Republican members. The territorial party under Canegata also had the distinction of being the only state or territorial GOP not to run candidates for governor or Congress in the immediate past elections.

As embarrassing as those stats are it gets far worse for Canegata.

An audit of the territorial party’s finances, which was conducted pursuant to a ruling from the Republican National Committee and 2020 Republican National Convention, found that a scam PAC operated by Canegata raised over $10 million using the party’s name. But instead of spending that money on getting Republicans elected in the Virgin Islands, Canegata and Washington-based consultants spent the money on themselves.

The Republican National Committee has posted information and resources for voters on a website for the caucus.

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Republicans Running For Territory-Wide Offices In Upcoming Caucus Overseen By RNC

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Republicans in the U.S. Virgin Islands are rebuilding their party after years of inactivity.

The first step is a caucus in March administered by lawyers from the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C.

The caucus will elect new leaders after the Republican National Committee decided in 2020 that John Canegata was not the lawful and legitimate chairman of the national GOP’s affiliate for a host of reasons, including fraudulent party elections, corruption and malfeasance.

As part of that decision, all but two members of the Virgin Islands delegation to the 2020 Republican National Convention that nominated President Donald Trump for re-election were stripped of their credentials. The only Virgin Islanders recognized as legitimate delegates were then-National Committeeman Jevon O.A. Williams and then-National Committeewoman Lilliana Belardo O’Neal who had so-called superdelegate status.

The RNC attempted to implement its decision over the past two years, but Canegata and his Democrat allies who control the Virgin Islands Board of Elections refused to recognize the RNC’s authority. After threats of litigation, Canegata complied and agreed to recognize the outcome of the RNC-administered caucus.

Canegata is expected to run again, alongside Belardo de O’Neal for national committeewoman and Max Schanfarber for national committeeman. 

Gordon Ackley of St. Thomas announced this weekend that he will run against Canegata for chairman. Running with Ackley are Williams of St. Croix for re-election as national committeeman and Antoinette
Gumbs-Hecht of St. Thomas for national committeewoman against Belardo de O’Neal.

Republicans in the Virgin Islands have been decimated since Canegata ousted the deceased Herb Schoenbohm in 2014. 

Canegata later expelled Schoenbohm and also-deceased Holland Redfield, the party’s long-time national committeeman until 2016.

In the intervening years, Canegata’s party failed to run candidates for Congress in 2018, 2020 and now 2022. Similarly, Canegata also failed to run a candidate for governor in 2018 and it’s unlikely a Republican will run in this year’s general election. 

Canegata has also embarrassed Republicans across the country with a scam political action committee that preys upon unsuspecting donors with claims of supporting Republican candidates on the mainland.

The PAC, called the VIGOP, has raised and spent over $10 million — enough to buy every senator’s seat in the Virgin Islands Legislature — with most of the money going to Canegata, Schanfarber, and D.C.-area consultants.

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AUDIT: What Did John Canegata Do With $10 Million From VIGOP?

CHRISTIANSTED — A recent audit into the finances of U.S. Virgin islands Republicans reported the territorial party under now-former chairman John Canegata raised and spent almost $10 million since 2013.

The money was funneled through VIGOP, a federal political action committee, that Canegata operates separately from the party’s territorial activities that nominally report to Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes under V.I. campaign finance laws.

The audit was conducted in the aftermath of the Republican National
Committee’s action stripping Canegata of all recognition and suspending the territorial party from participating in the national party until a new RNC-administered election for party leadership is held and an audit of finances conducted.

With all that money you might think Republicans in the territory were
a powerful political force. In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth.

There are no elected Republican senators in the Virgin Islands Legislature. The few candidates Canegata has run since taking over as chairman in 2012 haven’t come anywhere close to winning a seat. Even former Senator Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, who until earlier this year was a member of the prestigious Republican National Committee, couldn’t win a seat on St. Croix in 2018, despite having represented the district for several terms in the 1980s and 1990s.

There were no Republican candidates for governor in 2018 and 2014 nor
candidates for delegate to Congress in 2020 and 2018.

The party’s only success in recent years has been for the Board of Elections, though this comes with an asterisk as some past or present Republican board members won their seats by default since they were unopposed on the ballot.

Although Canegata was derecognized as chairman of the Virgin islands Republican Party in August of 2020 by a vote of both the Republican National Committee and 2020 Republican National Convention, he still
portrays himself as party chairman both in communications within the territory and in postings on social media.

“On behalf of myself and all Republicans in the Virgin Islands, we wish Godspeed on President Biden and Vice President Harris,” Canegata said on Facebook Thursday. “I pray that they govern our country with God’s Grace and wisdom. Believe in Good Government… Tace et Face.”

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Canegata Gets Re-Elected With 100% Of The Vote, But RNC Will Have The Final Say

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Republican National Committee will determine if John Canegata won, as he claims, re-election to a fourth term as the Virgin Islands Republican chairman during a caucus at Bluebeard’s Castle Resort on St. Thomas Saturday.

Results from the caucus show Canegata receiving 56 votes — 100 percent of the votes cast — across St. Croix and St. Thomas with no voters casting ballots on St. John.

“I would like to thank God, my wife, my daughter and my awesome team of V.I. Republicans,” Canegata told the V.I. Free Press. “Four years for the new Canegata, Belardo de O’neal, Schanfarber slate, and for more years for the gentleman from New York, the president of the greatest country in the world, Donald J. Trump…”

The results also show Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal was re-elected national committeewoman and Max Schanfarber elected as national committeeman.

Canegata Gets Re-Elected With 100% Of The Vote, But RNC Will Have The Final Say
Max Schanfarber, national committeeman for the VIGOP

“Thank you Lord, thank you Jesus!” Schanfarber exuded on Facebook. “And thank you to the Virgin Islands Republicans. I am honored to serve you for the next four years!”

Not every Republican in the territory was pleased with the results, though.

“The only federal input is the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshal so why not select local non-white Americans?” Krim M. Ballentine asked.

While the results show 10 candidates from St. Thomas for the party’s territorial committee there were only five ballots cast on the island. This means five candidates didn’t bother to vote. Additionally, a write-in candidate, Fernando Aubain, received no votes from St. Thomas but 17 votes from St. Croix.

As of now, recognition of the caucus results is uncertain. That’s because, as the Virgin Islands Free Press reported exclusively last week, 20 local Republicans have filed a dispute — called a “contest” — against Canegata and the caucus with the RNC.

The national party is required by its own rules to hold the equivalent of a trial and issue a ruling before President Donald Trump is re-nominated at the GOP convention next month in Jacksonville.  

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John Canegata Faces Hearing Before Republican National Committee Over Legitimacy Of His USVI Chairmanship

CHARLOTTE — John Canegata faces the equivalent of a trial before the Republican National Committee in the lead-up to the party’s convention re-nominating President Donald Trump.

The hearing will be held after a group of Republicans filed a 77-page contest — basically a lawsuit under national party rules — with the RNC against Canegata, GOP National Committeewoman and former St. Croix Senator Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, and Max Schanfarber. Canegata claims to be the VIGOP chairman.

The V.I. Free Press isn’t naming all of those who filed the contest as some are private individuals and not public figures. However, notable names include: St. Thomas businessman Gordon Ackley, who says he is the territory’s GOP chairman; outgoing National Committeeman and V.I. Board of Elections member Jevon O.A. Williams; Glenn Webster, another member of V.I. Board of Elections; Amalia Café owner Randolph Maynard; St. Croix lawyer Bruce Cole; and Antoinette Gumbs-Hecht, who ran for national committeewoman against Belardo de O’Neal in the GOP’s now-infamously canceled primary election.

Their contest contains a five-count indictment of Canegata that, among other things, alleges repeated violations of territorial and national party rules, rigging his re-election by cancelling this year’s primary, and a failing to hold elections for party offices in 2018. They also allege Canegata’s caucus to elect party offices this Saturday is “irregular, improper, unlawful and illegitimate.”

Canegata lost a similar contest in 2016, when John Yob and a slate of other Republicans were seated by the RNC as delegates to the convention that nominated Trump to run against Hillary Clinton.

Yob, who is running for GOP national committeeman against Schanfarber, did not sign the contest against Canegata, Belardo de O’Neal and Schanfarber.

The contest will proceed along the same lines as civil litigation. Each side will file briefs and other arguments with the RNC before a hearing is held; most likely a week before the national party’s 2020 convention.

As of publication, some of the convention is set to be held in Charlotte, North Carolina with other parts, including Trump’s re-nomination acceptance speech, scheduled to occur in Jacksonville, Florida.

Asked for comment from the Virgin Islands Free Press, Canegata had this reply: “Ironically, I am not aware of any hearing or the sort… I was told that some documents may have been filed, but I’m not interested in the details.”

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VIGOP Party Chief Resorts To Name Calling Prior To Superior Court Decision

KINGSHILL — In a sign of desperation a day after Superior Court Judge Kathleen Mackay extended a temporary restraining order against John Canegata, the disputed Virgin Islands Republican Party chairman resorted to racial slurs.

Responding to a Facebook comment on his page, Canegata described Gordon Ackley, who was the only Republican to file for party chairman in the August primary, as the “Arian [sic] prince.”

Ackley sued Canegata, Supervisor of Elections Caroline Fawkes and the Board of Elections after Canegata, who failed to collect enough petition signatures to file for the primary election, sought to cancel the primary and instead hold a party-run caucus in which he would count the votes.

VIGOP Party Chief Resorts To Name Calling Prior To Superior Court Decision

Mackay is expected to issue a final ruling in the case on Tuesday.

Aryan historically refers to a people speaking an Indo-European language who invaded northern India in the 2nd millennium B.C., displacing the Dravidian and other aboriginal peoples.

It was typically used in the late 19th century and mid-20th century to describe people of Indo-European heritage as a racial grouping.