Republican challenger gets day in Indiana Court

March 25, 2011

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April 1st will be no laughing matter for George Janiec: That is when he will likely find out whether he’ll be back in the race for mayor of Hammond, Indiana.

Janiec is challenging a March 7 decision by the Lake County Elections and Voter Registration Board to remove him as a candidate in the Republican primary, which occurs May 3.

After more than an hour of testimony Thursday in Hammond, Lake County Superior Court Judge Jesse Villalpando said he will make a ruling Friday, April 1—just three days before early voting is start.

Janiec attended the hearing with his attorneys, including Cordell Funk.

Funk argued that the election board’s decision is not based on an Indiana law.

“The statutory qualifications are that you have to be a registered voter and a Hammond resident. He meets both of those and there’s no grounds to take him off,” Funk said. “Unless there’s a statute that states you can take him off, he should stay on there and the voters should have a right to decide.”

Election board attorney Jim Wieser pressed to keep Janiec off the primary ballot. He contends Indiana law aims to keep politics from interfering with school board business, and running in a partisan race jeopardizes that. The election board used similar reasoning in its March 7 ruling.

“It’s a legitimate disqualifying factor,” Wieser said. “[Janiec] is a nonpartisan person that wants to be allowed to run for partisan office. That’s not the spirit of the law.”

Some speculate that Janiec was removed from the primary because he came within 500 votes of upsetting incumbent Mayor Tom McDermott, Jr. during 2007’s mayoral election. McDermott heads the Lake County Democratic Party.

The election board’s original decision was approved along party lines, 3 to 2.