Democrats challenge Green Party write-in candidate for judge based on loss in primary

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From left: Jennifer Crossley, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party; Al Manns, currently a write-in Green Party candidate for the Division 1 circuit court race; Randy Paul, co-chair of the Monroe County Greens.

For the Monroe County Division 1 circuit court race, it’s certain that the November ballot will show two names: Republican Carl Lamb and Democrat Geoff Bradley.

What’s not yet certain is whether a blank will have to appear on the ballot where a voter could write a different name: Al Manns.

On July 6, Manns filed the paperwork required for write-in candidates and indicated an affiliation with the Green Party. He now appears on the Secretary of State’s official list of candidates.

But on Friday morning in Indianapolis at the state election division, Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jennifer Crossley hand-delivered a challenge to the write-in candidacy that Manns wants to mount.

The challenge is based on a state law commonly known as the “sore loser” law. [IC-3-8-1-5.5]  The statute says that if someone loses a primary election, they’re not able to be a candidate for the same office in the next general election.

Mann was Bradley’s opponent in the Democratic Party’s primary election in June. Bradley had 62.3 percent (10,740) of the vote compared to 37.7 percent (6,507) for Manns. So it looks like the “sore loser” law could apply. But there are some exceptions given in the law for filling a vacancy on a ticket.

According to election division attorney Matthew Kochevar, if the challenge filed by Crossley is heard by the state’s election commission by noon next Friday (Aug. 14), the four-member bi-partisan group could decide to remove Manns from the official list of candidates.

By the end of the day Friday, the election commission had not posted notice of a meeting to hear the case.

Kochevar said that the deadline for a challenge like the one filed by the Monroe County Democrats was noon today (Aug. 7).

Reached by The Square Beacon, Manns said he still supports the Democratic Party and was asked to run as a Green Party candidate. Mann said he supports environmental causes and thinks that standing as a write-in candidate is a way to make a statement to that effect.

He was asked to run by Green Party co-chair Randy Paul, who is mounting his own write-in campaign, for the District 2 county commissioner seat currently held by Democrat Julie Thomas.

Paul told The Square Beacon that he thinks that Manns might poll higher in a general election than in a primary, because there’s a larger pool of voters—independents or others who don’t want to participate in the Democratic Party’s primary.

“What do they care, if he lost their primary?” Paul said about the Democrats.

Crossley told The Square Beacon that the challenge by the Democratic Party was not an attack on Manns, but rather support of its own candidate, Geoff Bradley. Anyone who writes in a vote for Manns would make one less vote for Bradley, she said. It’s a way of saying, “This is our candidate,” Crossley said.

If in some future year, Manns were to run in a Democratic Party primary and win, he would be supported in the general election by the party, Crossley said. In a future campaign, she said it would be a fair question for Democratic Party voters to ask Manns: Why did you try to run as a write-in for the Green Party?

Paul serves on the board of the Indiana Green Party. He told The Square Beacon the board’s most recent meeting included some general interest in challenging the “sore loser” law. But if the election commission decides to hear the Democratic Party’s challenge about Manns as a write-in, Paul said he’s not sure what the approach will be—it’s a state party decision, not his own.

One angle could be to argue against the “sore loser” law generally. Another path could be to argue that one of the exceptions applies.

All but three states have some kind of “sore loser” law.