Starke County Election Board Finds Harris Ineligible for Railroad Township Board Race

A Railroad Township Trustee candidate is now out of the race, but another name has been added. John Harris is officially off the ballot following a pair of challenges against his campaign, according to Starke County Clerk Vicki Cooley. She says the Starke County Election Board reviewed the challenges Friday and determined that Harris was not an eligible candidate for the May primary.

Harris had filed to run as a Republican. Cooley says the problem was that he had no actual party affiliation. Normally, that would be determined by the most recent primary in which a person voted. But since Harris doesn’t have a voting record, he would have needed written permission from the Starke County Republican Party chair. That apparently was not obtained.

The other challenge accused Harris’s campaign of running advertisements that failed to identify who paid for them. But Cooley says that because it was determined that Harris was not an elegible candidate based on party affiliation, the election board decided to waive any penalties stemming from the ad.

Cooley says Harris then signed paperwork officially withdrawing from the race. However, there was also a last-minute addition to the ballot Friday, as Debra Wappel filed to run as a Republican, essentially taking Harris’s place. She’ll face incumbent Mandy Thomason in the May primary, with the winner expected to square off against former trustee Democrat Roger Chaffins, in November.

Meanwhile, by the time of Friday’s filing deadline, a total of seven candidates had filed to run for the three Railroad Township Board seats.