Dems again challenge Espar candidacy

September 7, 2018

MICHIGAN CITY — Christina Espar’s spot as the Republican candidate for La Porte County Prosecutor on the November ballot has been challenged again.

La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman James Kimmel petitioned La Porte Superior Court 1 last week for a preliminary injunction and restraining order against the Indiana Election Commission and Espar that, if granted, would prevent the commission from certifying her candidacy.

In one of the motions, Kimmel claims allowing Espar to remain on the ballot would result in “immediate and irreparable injury” to the La Porte County Democratic Party, the public and voters of La Porte County.

He also filed for a preliminary injunction that would prevent La Porte County Clerk Kathy Chroback and the Indiana Election Division from “taking any action to print the name of Christina M. Espar on the ballot for the general election” on the grounds it would result in “irreparable injury, loss and damage to (the La Porte County Democratic Party).”

In a verified complaint filed with the court, Kimmel requests judicial review of the 2-2 vote from the Dems’ initial challenge, argued before the Indiana Election Commission on Aug. 24. With a tie vote along party lines, the consensus was the commission’s failure to act would grant favor to Espar as the candidate, and allow her to remain on the ballot.

“I and the public and voters of La Porte County will be prejudiced by a violation of (Indiana Code) 3-13-1-16 by the Indiana Election Division and/or Kathy Chroback, Clerk of La Porte Circuit Court, and there is no remedy at law for such a violation,” Kimmel says in his complaint.

But Espar said in a phone interview Thursday it’s she who will be prejudiced if her name is not allowed on the absentee ballots that will be mailed later this month while, she suspects, Kimmel’s challenge will be tied up in court.

The initial candidacy challenge was filed on the basis the La Porte County Republican Party never filed the CAN-30 form required by law to notify the county clerk’s office of the caucus Kimmel alleges was held to appoint Espar.

He also claims Espar did not file her CAN-31 form and statement of economic interest by the legal deadline, which he maintains would have been 72 hours prior to the Republican Party Executive Committee’s June 27 meeting, at which Espar was appointed.

“Due to the fact that ballots will be printed and the election held on November 6, 2018, an emergency exists and (Kimmel) requests that the Court set the time for return of summons and time for appearance no later than Sept. 7,” Kimmel’s complaint concludes.

Although his request sets a deadline of Friday, Judge Michael Bergerson remains out of court for a judicial conference.

Mary Lake, the attorney representing Kimmel and county Democrats in court, said Thursday that in the event no action can be taken Friday on the motions she filed, a short window of time remains to resolve the matter before ballots are printed.

Her husband, John Lake, the Democratic candidate for prosecutor and Espar’s only opponent, has said publicly he would not personally challenge Espar’s candidacy, as he already beat her father in the primary and isn’t worried about facing her in the general election.

When asked why the Dems continue to pursue the issue despite John Lake’s feelings, Mary Lake said, “Why have statutory provisions that give us filing deadlines and rules to follow if we aren’t going to follow them? They aren’t suggestions, they’re clear mandates. … It’s pretty simple, as we see it, as a matter of the democratic process.”

Additionally, she said, “Quite frankly, the fact is, John Espar lost the primary election. And we have a law in Indiana called the ‘sore loser law.’ If you lose a primary election, you can’t then file to run for the same office in a different party.

“The candidacy of his daughter is really a backdoor attempt to circumvent that law. And that’s not something we should allow to happen. And if the candidate doesn’t fill out the proper paperwork, that’s even more of a reason to invalidate her candidacy.”

Christina Espar said Thursday she already has her candidacy certification in-hand and is considering seeking an attorney who specializes in election law to represent her in court.

“I think this is an attempt to deplete a young candidate like myself of resources because I have to seek out legal representation to defend against these challenges,” she said. “And I think they hope it will take my focus away from campaigning while I’m fighting to keep my name on the ballot.”

She said she feels her opponent’s comments have been “dismissive” of her, and she believes it’s because she’s a young woman.

“And they’re lumping the Espar name together and treating me as no different than my father,” Christina Espar said.

“I am my own person. I have my own plans, my own goals and my own desires for the office of prosecutor – some of which contradict those of my father. … That’s frustrating as an independent woman to be minimized in that way. ...

“For (John Lake) to say he has no vested interest in whether I run is laughable, because if I’m not on the ballot, then he doesn’t have to campaign. And it’s his wife who’s pursuing this.”

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