Coffelt appeals ruling striking her from V.I. General Election ballot

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ST. THOMAS - Gubernatorial hopeful Soraya Diase Coffelt and her running mate, John Canegata, are appealing a federal ruling to keep them off the ballot in the November election.

In May, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes disqualified Coffelt and Canegata from running in the General Election because Canegata is a registered Republican and Coffelt is not affiliated with any political party.

Coffelt, Canegata and a voter, Ronald Charles, filed a lawsuit in District Court on May 30.

According to the lawsuit, Canegata did not want to be a no-party candidate because he also is running to retain his state chairman position within the Republican Party in a race he would have had to give up if he switched political parties.

District Judge Wilma Lewis conducted two hearings on the matter in June. After the first, she granted a temporary restraining order in the matter while considering whether to grant a permanent injunction.

On Monday, Lewis issued an opinion that upheld Fawkes' original decision to disqualify the Coffelt-Canegata ticket.

The judge said the plain language of the law does not address whether a registered member of a political party can run as an independent candidate.

"However, the court finds that the Supervisor of Elections' conclusion that registered and enrolled party members may not run as independent candidates in the General Election is worthy of respect because of its persuasive value. The court further finds that the Supervisor of Elections' interpretation of the relevant statutory provisions does not violate either the Revised Organic Act or the United States Constitution," Lewis said.

Lewis denied Coffelt's motion for a permanent injunction, and entered a judgement in favor of the defendants.

Coffelt responded by filing an appeal in the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

"We'll be asking for expedited appeal and requesting that the court stay this decision, meaning that we can go forward and campaign while this decision is pending," Coffelt told The Daily News on Wednesday.

"John and I have had an overwhelming amount of phone calls and even people stopping us on the street just telling us to fight it and not to give up, and we're not going to," she said.

Canegata still is on the primary election ballot for his Republican state chairman race.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email

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