Local Democratic Party won’t contest District 6 Bloomington council election outcome now, leaves door open to future action

Monroe County Democratic Party chair David Henry has confirmed to The B Square that he has not filed a petition under Indiana election code objecting to the outcome of the May 2 primary.

The primary made David Wolfe Bender the party’s nominee for the Bloomington District 6 city council seat in the Nov. 7 municipal election.

The deadline for a party chair to file a petition objecting to the result was noon on Friday (May 19).

The deadline came 23 hours after the election board convened a hearing on the question of Bender’s residency in the district.

The election board voted unanimously to refer to the county prosecutor potential felony charges involving a potential misrepresentation of Bender’s residency on his candidate filing forms. [.pdf of document forwarded to prosecutor and AG]

But in a separate action, the three-member board voted 2-1 to refer to the state attorney general the matter of possible action involving Bender’s eligibility as a candidate.

Thursday’s election board action factored into Henry’s decision, as party chair, not to file a petition. By making its referral to the attorney general, Henry said that the election board had asked the AG to do the same thing that he, as party chair, would have asked a court to do. Continue reading “Local Democratic Party won’t contest District 6 Bloomington council election outcome now, leaves door open to future action”

Referred by election board to county prosecutor, state attorney general: Residency questions about District 6 Bloomington city council candidate

David Wolfe Bender’s name was the only one that appeared on the May 2 Democratic Party’s primary for the Bloomington city council’s District 6 seat.

So Bender is currently the party’s nominee for that council position. All other things being equal, he will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot as the party’s nominee.

But on Thursday, Monroe County’s three-member election board voted unanimously to refer two potential felony election law violations by Bender to county prosecutor Erika Oliphant. The vote came after a hearing that lasted around an hour and 20 minutes.

It was election board member John Fernandez who made the motion to refer the matter to the prosecutor, saying, “I just think we ought to, frankly, just move this process along—without any kind of prejudice one way or another.”

Fernandez added that he wanted to “go ahead and recommend this over to the prosecutor’s office so that they can make that judgment and let this young man get on with his life, if that’s the determination.”

The hearing had been scheduled  after an Indiana Daily Student (IDS) article was published on Feb. 17, 2023, which questioned whether Bender actually lived in District 6: “City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there

It was based on that article, that GOP county vice chair William Ellis filed a complaint with the election board. Continue reading “Referred by election board to county prosecutor, state attorney general: Residency questions about District 6 Bloomington city council candidate”

New twist in District 6 Bloomington city council residency question: Bender fires attorney, says he wants to tell his story

In a letter received by Monroe County’s legal department on Thursday (April 6), David Wolfe Bender says he does not plan to resign as the Democratic Party’s nominee for Bloomington’s District 6 city council seat after the May 2 primary.

That’s a course reversal for the Indiana University student, whose eligibility as a candidate was subject of a complaint made by William Ellis, who is vice chair of the Monroe County Republican Party.

Ellis’s complaint was based on an Indiana Daily Student (IDS) article published on Feb. 17, 2023: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn’t live there.

Bender had previously said—through his Taft-Jaffe attorney—that he intends to withdraw as the Democratic Party’s nominee after the May 2 primary. His name appears on the ballot as the sole candidate for the District 6 nomination, because no challenge to his eligibility was made in a timely way.

No Republican declared a primary candidacy for District 6 city council.

But Bender’s April 6 letter says, “I write this letter to clearly communicate that I no longer intend to withdraw my candidacy from this election.” Bender’s letter continues, “If the voters see fit to elect me as the next Councilmember for Bloomington’s Sixth District, then I believe I am fully able, willing, and indeed eager to serve.”

Highlights of the letter include the fact that Bender is willing to appear at the May 18 hearing  that the election board has set to investigate the question of his residency.

The most recent action by the board is to clarify that the issues they’re examining involve the possible commission of felonies by Bender. Continue reading “New twist in District 6 Bloomington city council residency question: Bender fires attorney, says he wants to tell his story”

Monroe County campaign finance: 4 races, 17 candidates, $115K

Primary Election Day is May 3.

One limited measure of how much support candidates have among voters is the amount and range of financial contributions to their campaigns so far.

text is "pre-primary campaign finance filings" overlaid on top of a bag with a dollar sign on it

For the 2022 election season in the state of Indiana, pre-primary campaign finance forms were due at noon last Monday, April 18. Those forms are supposed to cover donations and expenditures for the period between Jan. 1, 2022 and April 8, 2022.

The B Square took a look at some of the early campaign finance filings by candidates in four Monroe County races— county commissioner; sheriff; circuit court judge; and recorder.

Those are races that have contested primaries this year for the Democratic Party.

The winner of those races will face a Republican Party candidate in the fall. None of the four races are contested in the Republican Party’s primary. The B Square has included Republican candidates in this roundup, which is compiled in a shared Google Sheet, with links to individual filings.

[Shared Goog Sheet 2020 pre-primary]

The 17 candidates in the four races have raised a combined total of around $115,000.

Counting money raised last year, six candidates for sheriff have raised a combined total of $58,000. The five candidates for judge have raised a combined total of around $28,000. The three candidates for county commissioner have raised a combined total of around $22,300. And the three candidates for county recorder have raised a combined total of around $7,000. Continue reading “Monroe County campaign finance: 4 races, 17 candidates, $115K”

Early in-person voting kicks off for Monroe County

The trademark blue former NAPA building at 3rd and Walnut streets, just south of the new parking garage and west of the downtown transit center, is the new home to Monroe County’s voting operations.

Tuesday was the first day of in-person early voting for the May 3 primary elections.

At 8 o’clock sharp, Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne emerged from the front door to perform the ritual that marked the start of the voting day.

Browne raised her voice to the overcast sky: “Hear ye, hear ye, the polls are now open!”

In the first half hour of voting, only a handful of voters cast a ballot. By then, light rain was falling on the few candidates and volunteers who had come to canvas the early voters.

By around 4 p.m., the count of early voters had reached just 58. For the general election in 2020, Monroe County averaged more than 1,000 early in-person voters a day. It’s not surprising that  interest in the primary elections, between presidential election years, is comparatively lower.

Browne told The B Square earlier in the morning that she’d heard from other county clerks in the state that the number of requested absentee ballots was down compared to 2020. Continue reading “Early in-person voting kicks off for Monroe County”

Bloomington violated state, local law on historic preservation commission appointments

In under two and a half minutes at its Feb. 16 meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved eight appointments to the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC).

Abstaining on the vote were Dave Rollo and Ron Smith, who both said that they’d received such late notice of the proposed appointments that they could not vote.

Rollo put it like this: “I haven’t had adequate time to review these applicants.”

Not getting a mention at the council’s meeting was the fact that seven of the people who were voted on that night had already been serving on the commission, one of them for more than two years—without the approval of the city council.

That’s a violation of state statute and local code.

The HPC has the power to submit maps describing the boundaries of a proposed historic district or conservation district for city council approval. The HPC also has the power to issue certificates of appropriateness for work done on buildings in historic districts.
Continue reading “Bloomington violated state, local law on historic preservation commission appointments”

2020 Bloomington city council: Out with the old, in with the new

At the last city council meeting of the year, on Dec. 18, 2019, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, delivered proclamations to the four outgoing councilmembers.

On Jan. 1, 2020, four new councilmembers were sworn in to start four-year terms, along with the five returning councilmembers, the mayor, John Hamilton, and the city clerk, Nicole Bolden.

Starting around noon on New Year’s Day in the city council chambers, the oaths of office for Bloomington’s 11 elected officials were administered. Continue reading “2020 Bloomington city council: Out with the old, in with the new”

Hey, Wait a Minute |”I’m leaving this meeting at 10:30, regardless of how long it goes…”

Note: “Hey Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area.

Screen Shot 2019-08-04 at 11.19.17 PM
“…it’s 9:45 p.m. I am leaving this meeting at 10:30, regardless of how long it goes, because I need to sleep at night. … There is absolutely no reason why we should be having a meeting that lasts more than four hours …”

At the most recent meeting of Bloomington’s city council, on July 31, councilmember Allison Chopra offered some candid commentary on the length of the meeting.

Chopra said in part: “…it’s 9:45 p.m. I am leaving this meeting at 10:30, regardless of how long it goes, because I need to sleep at night. … There is absolutely no reason why we should be having a meeting that lasts more than four hours …”

The criticism that councilmember Chopra expressed at the meeting—of her colleagues and herself—was serious business. I think it’s worth watching Chopra’s remarks as she made them, in their entirety.

But how likely are you to click on a link to a four-hour meeting video? I’d guess the answer is: Not at all likely, because you are not a local-government nerd. Continue reading “Hey, Wait a Minute |”I’m leaving this meeting at 10:30, regardless of how long it goes…””