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Three House Primaries Are Over Before They Begin

Election board disqualifies three Democrat candidates who switched parties to vote in 2016 primary

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Three Indiana House primaries are over before they started.

State law says your party is the one you voted for in the last primary, unless the local party chairman gives you a mulligan. That rule has disqualified three would-be Democrat candidates who broke with their past practice to vote in the Republican primary in 2016. The state election board unanimously ruled the law is clear that they can't switch back as candidates in 2018.

Joseph Lehman has run for judge and state representative five times as a Democrat. He was the only Democrat to file for the House seat of retiring Goshen Republican Wes Cuiver. He says he voted Republican because Democrats had hardly any contested primaries, and Lehman took a Republican ballot. That disqualifies him from the ballot.

Muncie pharmacist Jim Hiatt had hoped to base his campaign on fighting the opioid epidemic. He says he forgot he'd voted Republican in 2016 when he filed to challenge Muncie Representative Sue Errington in the primary. Hiatt asked the board to let him switch to the vacant Republican primary, but the filing deadline earlier this month is also the deadline for other changes. The ruling leaves Errington unopposed.

Also unopposed is Winchester Mayor Shon Byrum, who becomes the Democrat nominee for the seat of retiring Modoc Republican Greg Beumer. Two Republicans are seeking the nomination.

The parties have until June 30 to recruit candidates for ballot vacancies.

While the election board ruled against party-switchers, the panel was unpersuaded by two Democrats claiming their opponents don't live in the district. Rose Rodriguez lost the 2016 primary to East Chicago Representative Earl Harris by seven points, after unsuccessfully challenging his residency. She's running again this year and made the same charge, but with no new evidence to support it. And the board rejected a challenge to Maurice Fuller, the Democratic nominee in the last two elections against Brookston Representative Don Lehe. Fuller's primary opponent charges Fuller's home was sold at a sheriff's sale. But the board notes that sale took place five days after the filing deadline, and says there's no evidence that Fuller's new home isn't in the district.

(Photo: Nerthuz/Thinkstock)

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