We tend to think of the race for the Republican presidential nomination as a state-by-state process, but that’s not entirely correct – because some of the primaries and caucuses aren’t held in actual states. Last weekend, for example, Marco Rubio managed to win only his second contest of the year by finishing first in Puerto Rico.
The District of Columbia, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam will all soon hold contests of their own.
And then there’s the U.S. Virgin Islands, which appears to be home to the year’s weirdest presidential caucus.
The first sign of trouble came by way of the calendar: news organizations couldn’t seem to agree when, exactly, Republicans in the Virgin Islands were supposed to caucus. Several reports said the caucuses would be held on March 19, others said March 10.
The second sign of trouble was the confusion surrounding just how many delegates the Virgin Islands have to offer. The Republican National Committee and several independent tallies put the total at nine, while others say six [Update: see below].
And in case that weren’t quite enough, consider the results of yesterday’s caucuses, and the fact that the official winner was – wait for it – no one. The Associated Press reported:
Republicans in the Virgin Islands caucused into the night Thursday, and when they finished counting the votes Friday morning, the winner was … no one.Party chairman John Canegata says all nine delegates from the U.S. territory will go to the Republican National Convention as uncommitted delegates. That makes them free agents, free to support the candidate of their choice.
It’s not that the campaigns didn’t care about the contest. In fact, several campaigns dispatched surrogates to the Virgin Islands, and Ted Cruz even sent his father to campaign on his behalf. It didn’t seem to do any good.
And while someone usually wins every primary and caucus, and it’s strange for “uncommitted” to come out on top in the Virgin Islands, that’s not the end of the oddities.
The Washington Post – which said six, not nine, delegates were at stake in yesterday’s caucuses – reported that a man named John Yob and his wife led the uncommitted slate of delegates in the Virgin Islands.
And who’s John Yob? I’m glad you asked. TPM reported yesterday that Yob, who lived in Michigan up until very recently, is a Republican political consultant, the owner of a consulting firm called Strategic National, the former national political director for Rand Paul, and the author of a book about contested political conventions.
TPM’s report, which is every bit as bizarre as the rest of this story, explained that Yob and his allies got in “a bizarre and messy fight against the supervisor of the U.S. Virgin Island’s Election Board.”
On March 4, Caroline Fawkes, the supervisor of elections for the U.S. Virgin Islands ruled Yob, his wife Erica L. Yob, and Ethan Eilon and Lindsey Eilon ineligible to vote. All four of them were on the ballot to be delegates, but delegates must be registered Republican voters. Fawkes’ ruling compromised their eligibility to serve as delegates.According to court documents, Yob was initially ruled ineligible to vote, according to Fawkes, after he tried to register to vote before he had lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands for the required 90 days. According to an email that Fawkes sent to state chairman for the Virgin Islands Republican Party, John Canegata, Yob is alleged to have purposely falsified information to gain access to the polls.“Mr. Yob appeared at the St. John Elections Office in order to register to vote in early January. He was informed by the Elections Assistant, he has to reside in the Virgin Islands for ninety days before he can register. He informed the Elections Assistant, he arrived on the island a week before, which made him ineligible. He then took the information gained and travelled to the St. Thomas Elections offices and provided a falsified date within the parameters to meet the requirement,” Fawkes wrote in an email to the party chairman.
The Supreme Court of the U.S. Virgin Islands issued an order allowing Yob and the others to vote, which in turn helped them get elected as uncommitted convention delegates.
If there’s been a primary or caucus this bizarre in recent memory, I can’t think of it.
* Update: On the question about the number of delegates, six delegates from the Virgin Islands were elected yesterday, but the islands have a total of nine. The other three are seated automatically, and belong to the the Islands’ state Republican chair and two territory-wide RNC members.
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In the year's weirdest caucus, the winner was ... no one