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Legal action ‘not in best interest’ for Democrats

The Harrison County Democrat Central Committee ultimately decided against pursuing legal recourse against the Harrison County Election Board for allowing Republican County Council at-large candidate Sherry Brown back on the ballot after she withdrew, according to Gordon Ingle, who acted as Democrat Central Committee chairwoman Barbara Black’s legal counsel during the election board issue.
‘The Harrison County (Democrat) Central Committee does not believe it is in the best interest of the Harrison County Democratic Party or its candidates to get into the middle of what is essentially a Harrison County Republican fiasco,’ Black said.
‘The Harrison County Republican Party has control of the Harrison County Election Board by virtue of Sherry Brown, a Republican, holding the Clerk’s office. There is no question in the minds of the members of the Democratic Central Committee that the election board violated the law by placing Sherry Brown back on the Republican ballot after she withdrew her candidacy.’
Brown originally signed up to run for one of the three Republican slots for the November General Election but decided to withdraw because she was worried about state legislation regarding elected officials and the jobs they could hold. She withdrew just before the deadline at noon on Feb. 13.
Then, a complaint was filed in March by Mauckport resident Norman Dennison, stating that Brown’s withdrawal from the race was invalid because she could not acknowledge her own signature, which she did in her position as Circuit Court Clerk.
The complaint was accepted with a 2-1 vote of the election board. President Larry Shickles, the Republican representative, voted in favor as did Lori Davis, acting as Brown’s proxy on the board. Brown automatically is a member of the board as clerk but called in a proxy member to sit in her place since she was the topic of discussion. Democrat representative Edith Richards voted against.
Brown, who said she had begun to regret her decision to withdraw, said she was fine with the decision of the board.
Black and the Democrat party filed a complaint about the decision shortly after the meeting, and the board met again a few days later to discuss it further but the decision was not changed.
About a week later, Republican county council at-large candidate Doug Harkness of Palmyra filed a complaint of his own that said Brown’s acknowledgment of her own signature to sign up as a candidate was invalid and said he believed ‘strings were being pulled in the background’ to modify the democratic process.
Harkness addressed the election board at a meeting in March about the complaint, but the complaint was dismissed because the deadline to contest a candidate filing passed in February.
Harkness said too much time had passed after Brown’s withdrawal for Dennison’s complaint, so Brown should not be on the ballot.
Both sides of the argument interpreted the Indiana Code to support their position. Shickles said there is no deadline, or at least it’s not specified, to contest the withdrawal of a candidate.
‘It is clear the Republican Central Committee, along with the Republican members of the Harrison County Election Board, decided that the Republican slate of candidates was weak without Sherry Brown on the ticket,’ Black said. ‘They conjured an illegal basis for getting her back on the ticket and made a mockery of the whole system. The only Democratic member of the election board, Edith Richards, voted against the illegal election board action. However, if the Harrison County Republican Party and its chairman want to allow, and be a part of, the election board mockery out of the election laws, that is their choice. The Harrison County voters can make the ultimate decision when they cast their ballots in the fall.’
The Republican side of the council ballot, besides Brown and Harkness, includes New Salisbury resident M.E. (Marion) Wallace and Elizabeth resident Jim Heitkemper, the incumbent.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Democratic Party chairman so interested in what happens in a Republican Party primary before,’ Scott Fluhr, Harrison County Republican Party chairman, said. ‘Sherry Brown is a hardworking and smart public servant, and it’s not surprising that the good, old boys would like to pick and choose who runs in the Republican primary in order to cherry pick their opponents in the fall. Using lawyers to pick your opponents is the same strategy Obama has used.
‘When the election board made its decision, the board said that it wanted to let the ultimate election board, the voters of Harrison County, have their say,’ he said. ‘As noted in the newspapers, the Democrats didn’t like this and threatened to sue to get their way.’
The Democrat county council at-large candidates are Elizabeth resident Sheila Bryant Best, Corydon residents Timothy Coffman, Gerald Saulman and Patricia A. (Pat) Wolfe, Depauw resident and former councilmember Leslie June Robertson and incumbent Richard Gerdon of Corydon.
For more information about the Democrat council candidates, see this week’s Flair section. The Republicans will be featured next week.