ST. THOMAS — Elections officials announced the slate of candidates running for the vacant seat in the 32nd Legislature. But the candidate who won the election on Nov. 8 and was barred from taking the oath of office by a court order continues his fight with a new round of appeals.
Among the thirteen hopefuls running in the April 8 special election include Democrats, Republicans and No Party candidates. The casting of lots was held at the Election Systems office March 10.
The call for a special election came by proclamation from Gov. Kenneth Mapp on Feb. 7.
Now the unseated Senator-elect Kevin Rodriquez is asking the U.S. Appeals Court for the 3rd Circuit to order a stay for the new round of balloting.
Attorney Frank Jackson, representing Rodriquez, said if he can win a stay for his client there’s hope the appeals panel will consider the merits of the case.
The Virgin Islands code allows the governor to declare an election once a vacancy exists for 30 days. Mapp issued the declaration Feb 7. The new session of the Legislature formally convened on Jan. 9.
Jackson said it was up to the Legislature to declare the vacancy before the governor took action. “What we’re saying is the governor was not the one that should have called the special election,” Jackson said.
Court proceedings, first in Superior Court, then the Virgin Islands Supreme Court, the District Court of the Virgin Islands, have dogged the results of the General Election since late November. A rival candidate for the seat Rodriquez won was the first to press a legal challenge.
The embattled senator-elect has taken both defensive and offensive stances along the way. Justices of the Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction, barring Rodriquez from taking the oath of office while at the same time, directing a lower court to review one of its rulings.
But Rodriquez said once the 32nd Legislature formally convened Jan. 9, the courts lost jurisdiction over his case. An attorney representing political rival Janelle Sarauw said the latest filing before the U.S. Appeals Court for the 3rd Circuit may fall flat.
“There has been no motion for stay of proceedings or similar motion seeking to suspend the special election, which typically would need to be filed in the trial court first,” said Attorney Edward Barry.
Against this backdrop, Elections Supervisor Caroline Fawkes has rallied her staff to put a special election together on a fast track.
The ballot assignments, resulting from the casting of lots held Friday, is as follows:
Lloyd L. Williams 1
Gilmore A. Estrill, Sr. 2
Randolph L. Thomas 3
Alma Francis Heyliger 4
Darien L. Wheatley 5
Robert Max Schanfarber 6
Justin Harrigan, Sr. 7
Gustave R. Dowling 8
Barbara A. Petersen 9
Wilma Marsh Monsanto 10
Janelle K. Sarauw 11
Patrick Simeon Sprauve 12
Stephen “Smokey” Frett 13
Rodriquez’s name was not among those competing in the special election. Fawkes said she could not tell if campaign supporters for Rodriquez picked up an application packet prior to the filing deadline.
The matter was complicated further by an unsolicited legal opinion issued by Attorney General Claude Walker. Walker’s opinion followed an appearance before the Senate where lawmakers debated whether an elections reform measure, Act 7892, nullified the St. Thomas-St. John Board of Elections as of Jan. 1.
In the legal opinion Walker said Rodriquez did not qualify as a candidate for the special election because of legal issues raised in a ruling by the Virgin Islands Supreme Court on Jan. 8.