Hammond Democratic Chair David Woerpel says he and two others were prevented from voting in the caucus for Democratic Chair. Michelle Fajman was instrumental in finalizing the list of eligible voters
March 4, 2017-Weeks of party wrangling ended today as Indicted Lake County Sheriff and Party Chair John Buncich cast the deciding ballot in the party vote for a new chairman. Buncich cast a vote for Lake County Attorney Jim Wieser who serves as the current attorney to the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration. The process is governed by Democratic Party rules and it is their election. Nonetheless, the critical role played by the staff and attorney for the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration should make all residents stand up and take notice.
Lake County, Indiana has long been the laughing stock of the nation due to the corrupt political process. While we have had nearly 100 federal prosecutions for public corruption; today we managed what is probably a national first-an indicted sitting party chair casting the deciding vote for his replacement. As always, the story is much bigger than that.
Hammond Democratic Party Chair David Woerpel says he was not allowed to vote in the election. In a social media post, Woerpel explained:
Ok so I’ll respond here. Yes the County Chairman’s race ended in a tie and the sitting indicted Chairman broke that tie. I did show up along with several other people who I know of, from Hammond, whose name I turned in, time and time again, to the Democratic Party Headquarters, to fill vacant Precinct Committeemen and Vice spots in the Hammond Organization. These changes were turned in since, the day after the November election. Some of those people were and some weren’t showing up on the list of those eligible to vote today.
Not being a precinct committeeman I appointed myself as well as 2 people Eva Lynn and Rob Bunner, who I asked to do me a favor,and they did, (had it confirmed on 2 occasions) to vice committeeman positions, yet for some reason they weren’t allowed to vote today. I can’t speak for the other 2 but had I been allowed to vote, Mike Mike Repay, would have been elected today. Besides being a “Hammond Guy”, Mike reached out to me and we talked several times about issues I saw and cared about. Issues like the division’s in the party, giving control of the precincts, and endorsements back to the people who are the backbone of the party, the committeemen. Mike listened when I asked, “why are we just agreeing and volunteering to destroy precincts, just because the Republicans downstate threaten a bill, to do it for us”. My attitude has been, why should we voluntarily do it…if that’s what they want to do, let them do it themselves. I’ve been screaming for the last 3 years, we’re making it hard on ourselves, and why do people who have been gone long ago keep getting the mail for the polls when, they’re no longer around. When I ran in the Caucus for the council seat, Mayor McDermott, wasn’t allowed to even vote, although I sent that change, the day after the election.
I wish Mr. Wieser no I’ll will, but Mike took the time to sit and listen to what I’ve had to say. I’m not claiming it was intentional or not, but had people been listening every time that I’ve talked, the outcome and hard feelings would of and could of been avoided. Like this country the party is divided and broken. Mr. Wieser has his hands full, I don’t envy his task, and I wish him well. Me ?? If you’ve been listening all along, you’d say, “damn….you were right”. I guess all I can do is shrug my shoulders…and say “they just don’t get it…do they ??
This clearly shows I was a “Guest”
In a case where there was a tie, party officials must be called upon to answer as to how the city chair from the largest city in the county was not allowed to vote. Even the party faithful were upset, screams of boo and even profanities could be heard from the crowd after the announcement by Buncich. While it is their party and their election, the role comes with it the legal authority to take action which impacts all Lake County residents. For example, a party chair appoints election board members and the election board attorney.
How this happened:
A party chair is selected by precinct committee people-both the committee chair and precinct vice chair can vote in the process. Although we elect precinct chairs, most of the positions go unfilled at election time. In the latest election of precinct officials, just 6 were selected by vote of the people in Hammond. Precinct chairs often select their vice-chairs. When seats go unfilled in the election, party officials can fill those vacancies. According to party rules, those selected to fill a vacancy must be seated 30 days before the party election in order to be eligible to vote.
Michelle Fajman’s Role in the Scheme:
Michelle Fajman was selected as vice chair of the Lake County Democratic Party today. She previously served as secretary of the party. As secretary, she was responsible for working with Buncich to obtain the names of those submitted and ensure that they would have the opportunity to vote. Today many allege that exactly the opposite happened. Several city leaders have suggested that their submission of names to fill vacant seats were rejected or ignored. Additionally, over 100 names were added. Often names from the South part of Lake County (where Jim Wieser would seem to have more support) were put in as precinct chair or vice-chair in northern cities. While this is entirely legal, it raises questions in this election.
No matter what happened, Lake County residents deserve answers. We must stop having privately held elections which impact us all. These are the same people that will run the caucus to select our next Sheriff when or if John Buncich resigns.
Sheriff and former Party Chair John Buncich did not return calls for comment regarding this article.
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Copyright 2017 The Northwest Indiana Gazette