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Michigan GOP Leaders Take Sides In U.S. Virgin Islands Delegation Dispute

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When it comes to scenarios for the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer, by now you probably think you've heard all. Well, think again. From The Detroit News comes a story of political intrigue in the selection of delegates that involves two delegations, the 59 delegates from Michigan and the six from the U.S. Virgin Islands. Reporter Chad Livengood has written about a particular dispute over who should sit in the Virgin Islands delegation. Chad Livengood, thanks for joining us today.

CHAD LIVENGOOD: Thanks for having me, Robert.

SIEGEL: And this is a very, very sprawling plot to try to convey, but tell us first about John Yob. Who's John Yob, and where is he?

LIVENGOOD: John Yob is a Republican political strategist from Grand Rapids, Mich., who works around the country for various candidates at the congressional level, gubernatorial level. Most recently he was national political director for Rand Paul until the Kentucky senator dropped out earlier this year.

SIEGEL: Last year - late last year, John Yob relocates to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

LIVENGOOD: Yep. He bought a house down there, moved his family, and one of his business partners and his wife also moved down there and took up residency.

SIEGEL: Then come the Republican caucuses in the U.S. Virgin Islands. John Yob fields a slate of delegates.

LIVENGOOD: Yep. Him and his wife and the wife of his business partner along with a couple of locals there got elected as the six delegates for the Republican National Convention. And from there, it got a little messy, Robert.

SIEGEL: A little messy, OK. So here's this slate of uncommitted (laughter) delegates from the U.S. Virgin Islands to the Republican Convention with a very strong Michigan flavor, and there's some dispute as to whether they really should be the delegation. Who's against them?

LIVENGOOD: Yeah. The local elections supervisors down there immediately challenged their residency, saying they didn't wait 90 days to register to vote after they had relocated. And the party chairman down there, John Canegata, was challenging their validity because they didn't follow all the strict rules for signing off and approving of their election in the caucus.

SIEGEL: And on Canegata's side, the ones challenging John Yob's group, there's also a Michigan link.

LIVENGOOD: Yes. Working for the Republican Party down there and John Canegata doing fundraising work was a man named Saul Anuzis who is a former party chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and also a longtime adversary of John Yob and his father, Chuck, in Michigan Republican politics.

Saul Anuzis, as it turns out, has had a contract for the last couple years with the Virgin Islands Republican Party for fundraising, and so he's got some financial and business ties down there himself. He also is aligned with this chairman who is now battling John Yob in trying to prevent Mr. Yob from going to the National Convention in Cleveland in July.

SIEGEL: So what's so important about the U.S. Virgin Islands' delegation to the Republican Convention, and why is John Yob a new Virgin Islander?

LIVENGOOD: Well, John Yob says he's a new Virgin Islander because he always wanted to live there. But at the same time, this is important because this nomination, as tight as it is, could come down to just a few votes, basically, at the National Convention. Then the critical lobbying that will go on and jockeying will be along unbound delegates. So if you've got a delegation of six that you could probably deliver for a certain candidate, that puts you in a pretty powerful position going into Cleveland this summer.

SIEGEL: But let's say two groups of people arrive from the U.S. Virgin Islands in Cleveland, both saying that they should be the delegation. Who gets to settle that argument?

LIVENGOOD: Well, ironically, the Credentials Committee to the National Convention gets to settle that argument, and one of the members of that committee is Chuck Yob, John Yob's father, who is a John Kasich delegate. So he will be in the position - Chuck Yob - to lobby folks within that committee to recognize his son's delegation over the other one.

SIEGEL: The elder Yob is for Kasich. The younger Yob, you say, was for Rand Paul. Do you have any sense of which way he's leaning these days?

LIVENGOOD: Since he left Rand Paul's campaign and Rand Paul dropped out, he has not endorsed any candidate. But John Yob is - he's a businessman. He likes the antiestablishment candidates, but he goes where candidates pay him.

SIEGEL: Chad Livengood of The Detroit News, thanks for talking with us.

LIVENGOOD: Hey, thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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