Coffelt stays on ballot pending decision by Third Circuit


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In an order issued Friday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday granted an injunction against removing the gubernatorial ticket of Soraya Diase Coffelt and John Canegata from the ballot for the territory's General Election on Nov. 4.

The injunction is pending the court's decision regarding an appeal filed in July by Coffelt and Canegata.

The candidates are appealing a ruling by Chief District Judge Wilma Lewis, who upheld the decision Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes made in May to strike them from the ballot because Canegata is a registered Republican and Coffelt is not affiliated with any political party.

Fawkes had no comment Saturday about the 3rd Circuit Court's injunction.

Both sides presented oral arguments on Friday before a three-judge panel, and the court issued its order later the same day.

In June, Lewis conducted two hearings regarding the lawsuit Coffelt, Canegata and voter Ronald Charles filed in District Court on May 30.

After the first hearing, Lewis granted a temporary restraining order in the matter while considering whether to grant a permanent injunction.

Lewis issued an opinion July 7 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 and Canegata responded by filing an appeal in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

- Contact Executive Editor Gerry Yandel at 714-9106, or email gyandel@dailynews.vi.

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