Virgin Islands GOP Delegate Meeting Escalates Quickly

Just listen to those sons of beaches go

A meeting of U.S. Virgin Islands Republicans went a little nutso Saturday, complete with shouting matches, screams for points of order, and at least one delegate getting shoved to the ground, allegedly. While the clusterfuck was due to political infighting, we'd also like to congratulate the USVI GOP for its spirited attempt to dispel stereotypes of islanders as laid back and relaxed.

The foofaraw over the Virgin Islands delegation to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland has been building for a while; Rachel Maddow even covered it in March, after personality clashes between the chair and vice chair erupted into name-calling. Maddow reported that Virgin Islands GOP Chairman John Canegata called Vice Chairman Herb Schoenbohm a "convicted felon, a moron, a compulsive liar and a Nazi sympathizer." He also reportedly said, "I want nothing to do with that Nazi." Schoenbaum acknowledged having a felony conviction for long-distance phone service fraud, but emphatically denies being a Nazi, saying the charge was "rubbish, total rubbish" -- just so you know. The fight was mostly over whether to send a delegation of Republicans who have only recently moved to the islands, in order to influence a contested convention. Here's that Maddow story, which is jaw-droppingly goofy:

Delegate-math sorcerer John Yob, who had initially been declared ineligible to vote in the Virgin Islands, got a last-minute judicial decision in his favor (still pending further review), and was elected in the Islands' March 19 caucus to lead a delegation of uncommitted delegates to the convention. Yob had, purely by coincidence, written a book on how delegations from tiny U.S. territories could have outsized influence at contested conventions. CONVENIENT!

Which brings us to this weekend's meeting of the Republican Territorial Committee, which, like any good GOP event, was partly held at a gun range in St Croix, owned by Chairman Canegata. We are not making this up. We even paid a dollar for a one-day pass behind the paywall at the Virgin Islands Daily News, to bring you all the deets. Another group teleconferenced in from a home on St. Thomas, where there were no reported fisticuffs. Although it seems inexplicable given that an armed society is a polite society, it sounds like things got a little heated at the ol' D&J Shooting Gallery, complete with Rashomon-like variations in accounts of what went down:

Party Vice Chairman Herb Schoenbohm said in an email Saturday that elected delegate Gwen Brady was assaulted by member Fred Espinosa, while party Chairman John Canegata said Brady grabbed member Dennis Lennox’s cell phone from his hand and threw it at his head.

The phone landed in the lap of Committeewoman Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal, and Espinosa held Brady “against the wall just to protect her and to protect Dennis because Dennis is the victim in this,” Canegata said. He said he did not actually see the scuffle because he’d turned his back to speak with Committeeman Holland Redfield.

Curiously, the guy who Canegata was talking to, Holland Redfield, disputes the account given by Canegata, who, you'll recall, had his back turned on the action:

Redfield defended Brady in a statement Sunday, saying that she was as likely an aggressor as “Mother Teresa.”

Redfield said he never saw Brady throw a cell phone, and it was Lennox who was pushing the phone in her face. When Brady tried to push back, the scuffle ensued.

“Decorum was not maintained by the chairman from the beginning until the end,” Redfield said.

Frankly, we're hoping to see each version recreated with action figures on Robot Chicken.

Redfield said that Mr. Espinosa pushed Brady against the wall while Brady was appealing to Canegeta for order. Canegata is taking Lennox's side, and said that Lennox offered to not pursue assault charges against Brady if she'd apologize and resign from the committee. Brady refused to resign, and Canegata says it's possible a warrant will be issued for her arrest.

Vice Chair Schoenbaum has, needless to say, a completely different account, saying that Brady got “slammed against the wall and thrown to the floor because she objected to the Gestapo-like tactics of the V.I. Chairman John Canegata.” Christ, sounds like everybody's a Nazi down there.

According to Schoenbaum,

Canegata refused to follow proper meeting procedure and Brady objected, “and a Cruz volunteer that was at the meeting at the behest of the chairman put a cell phone camera in her face” and she was “thrown to the ground” by Espinosa.

Miraculously, Donald Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was not anywhere near the Virgin Islands at the time. OR WAS HE?????

Saturday's fuck-tussle grew out of disagreement over how the meeting was run; Canegata reportedly refused to recognize numerous calls for a point of order, and said that a voice vote to ratify appointment of members to fill vacancies had passed. Others at the meeting were sure the nays had it, and called for a roll call vote; instead, Canegata abruptly adjourned the meeting. And then the Brady-Lennox-Espinosa fight broke out.

Also, just to add to the fun, a group of 14 dissident members held a second meeting at which they approved a vote of no confidence in Canegata. You may not be terribly surprised to learn Canegata said he knew of no such meeting.

Vice Chair Schoenbaum complained that Canegata had held the meeting in a shooting gallery in the first place,

where he struts around like a petty tyrant with a firearm on his belt, while banging the table with a large ammunition cartridge being used as a gavel. People are not used to a Republican meeting being in a combat zone and will avoid future meetings if something isn’t done about his lack of control.

Objecting to an armed committee chair and use of a gun-themed gavel? What is this Schoenbaum, a Democratic plant? Schoenbaum also said that following the contretemps, Canegata ordered everyone off the property and that Brady

emerged from the meeting room visibly shaken and crying. Someone called the police and demand that she be arrested even though she was the obvious victim of an assault and battery

For his part, Canegata said he was in fact carrying a gun, but his weapon was concealed. He said he's usually armed, and "I’m sure I wasn’t the only person carrying" at the meeting. Makes sense, considering the potential for violence. He also explained the only reason he was banging an artillery shell casing on the table was that he'd forgotten his gavel, another likely explanation. What else would be handy at a gun club, after all?

Ultimately, the kerfuffle is over what slate of delegates the Islands will send to the convention: the Yob-led crowd elected at the caucus, which has Schoenbaum's support, of an alternate slate chosen by Canegata, who insists the Yobbos broke party rules and are ineligible. The elected delegates have filed a lawsuit against Canegata, claiming he's the one violating party rules, and insisting they be sent to Cleveland.

Mr. Yob, who didn't attend the contentious meeting Saturday, later issued a statement indicating he was shocked, shocked that anyone would try to game the system the way Mr. Canegata has:

[This] is no longer about Mr. Canegata breaking the rules to try and hurt me. This is now about him bringing in goons who physically assaulted a very well respected woman in the Virgin Islands for asking why he wasn’t following the rules.

This is beyond politics, this is a matter of a petty tyrant.

Yes, the guy who apparently moved to the Virgin Islands to engineer a takeover of the local Republican party is sick and tired of all this political maneuvering.

We're looking forward to the RNC in Cleveland so hard. The only question is whether there'll be enough popcorn to meet demand. Also, best dollar we've ever spent on a paywalled news site.

[Virgin Islands Daily News via TPM]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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