The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals put independent gubernatorial candidate Soraya Diase Coffelt and running mate, Republican John Canegata back on the general election ballot in an order published Friday. In late May, the V.I. Elections Office rejected the nominating petition for lieutenant governor candidate Canegata, saying that as a registered Republican he could not legally run on a nonpartisan ticket with an independent, Coffelt, giving Canegata three days to resubmit. Coffelt and Canegata declined to resubmit, instead challenging the ruling in court. On June 7, Chief Judge for the U.S. District of the Virgin Islands Wilma Lewis issued a temporary restraining order blocking the election system from disqualifying the two running mates.
When hearing arguments on the TRO, Lewis suggested that passage of law specifically applied to filing nomination petitions for running in a partisan primary, while those not running in a primary, such as independents, are addressed in a different passage of the law, for filing nomination papers, rather than petitions.
Lewis said the court “is unconvinced that the plain language of the statutory provisions upon which defendants rely stand for the propositions that defendants assert as the bases for disqualifying the Coffelt/Canegata team. Specifically, the court is not persuaded that the statutory provisions, as written, forbid a registered member of a political party – who is not a political party candidate for public office, and thus not the subject of a nomination petition for such office – from running for such office outside of the primary election process.”