Virgin Island Republicans sue in delegate fight

Story highlights

  • The group filing suit in superior court claims they were elected to the nine-person delegation earlier this month
  • The controversy is an early test for the Republican convention's credentials committee

Washington (CNN)A group of Republican delegates from the Virgin Islands on Friday filed suit to represent the U.S. territory at the Republican convention in July, one of the first legal challenges to a process that will determine the Republican nominee.

The group filing suit in superior court -- led by Republican operative John Yob and Holland Redfield, Republican national committeeman for the Virgin Islands -- claims they were elected to the nine-person delegation earlier this month. But Virgin Islands Republican Party Chairman John Canegata says the group didn't file the proper paperwork and are thus ineligible, and has instead fielded his own group of delegates for the national convention in Cleveland.
    Canegata also has accused Yob, who was Rand Paul's political director, of being an "outsider" ineligible to run as a Virgin Islands delegate because he lived in Michigan last year. Redfield argued in a letter earlier this week that Yob and his family were well-established in the U.S. territory.
    The Yob-Redfield group is seeking a temporary restraining order "to prevent (Canegata) from subverting the democratic process and from disenfranchising Republican voters," according to the lawsuit.
    The group led by Yob and Redfield is seeking to force Canegata to certify them as delegates under his role as party chairman. Canegata blasted Redfield in a letter earlier in the week.
    "You were not elected delegation chairman," Canegata wrote to Redfield on Tuesday. "The one, true delegation of the Virgin Islands met on April 7, 2016. You were given notice of this meeting but failed to attend. Had you attended, you would know I was unanimously elected as chairman of the Virgin Islands delegation by those present and voting."
    Later Friday, Canegata said in a statement that "the law of the land is clear: Republican Party rules -- not courts -- govern Republican Party procedure, according to established U.S. Supreme Court precedent."
    He added, "This frivolous lawsuit, which was leaked to journalists in Washington before it was even served, is nothing more than an act of desperation by the same people who failed to follow basic rules and even swore false oaths in their attempt to cause, in their own words, chaos at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland."
    The Virgin Islands controversy is an early test for the Republican convention's credentials committee, which must settle disputes before any delegates are verified among the 2,472 at the Republican convention.
    Yob's father, Chuck Yob, recently won one of 112 seats on the credentials committee, representing Michigan.