Coffelt and Canegata files suit against Elections to keep their gubernatorial ticket on 2014 ballot


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Soraya Diase Coffelt, John Canegata and Ronald Charles are suing Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes in a move to stop her from keeping the gubernatorial ticket of Coffelt and Canegata off the ballot.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in District Court on St. Croix, and a hearing in the matter is scheduled today before District Judge Wilma Lewis.

Last week, Fawkes gave Coffelt, a no-party candidate for governor, a notice of defect because her running mate is a registered Republican. According to the Elections System, a governor and lieutenant governor running on the same ticket must be of the same political party.

Coffelt had originally announced Warren Mosler as her running mate, but she switched to Canegata and filed new nomination papers by the May 23 deadline. Canegata is a registered Republican and is running for party chairmanship in the primary election.

According to the lawsuit, in order for Coffelt to correct the notice of defect, either Canegata would have to resign as a member of the Republican party, or Coffelt would have to chose a different running mate.

Charles, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, is a registered voter without a party affiliation and he signed the nomination papers for Coffelt and Canegata.

"He wishes to vote for them in the general election to be held on November 4, 2014," the lawsuit states.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs are seeking a temporary restraining order, preliminary injunction, permanent injunction and declaratory relief. They want the court to stop Fawkes from disqualifying the candidates from nomination, clarify the law as it relates to running mates being from different parties, and rule that Coffelt and Canegata have met the requirements for placement on the ballot.

The plaintiffs say that nowhere under the V.I. Code does it specify that a candidate for governor and a lieutenant governor must be of the same political party.

In addition, the official ballot only requires the party designation of the gubernatorial candidate to be listed, not the candidate for lieutenant governor, according to the plaintiffs.

In the government's response, that point was opposed. Virgin Islands law provides that a person can only run for public office consistent with their party affiliation, the reply states.

"Title 18 V.I.C. ยง 342(a) provides that 'any person running for public office must run as a candidate consistent with the political party designation under which the candidate is registered at the time of the filing of the nomination petition, whether the political party designation indicates an affiliation with a political party as defined in section 301 or otherwise.' Canegata is a registered Republican. He cannot run as a no-party, as the nomination papers filed by Coffelt suggests, while he remains a registered Republican," the defendant's reply said.

The hearing today will focus on the motion for temporary restraining order.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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