CROWN POINT | Two Lake County Republican candidates claim someone has broken into an influential GOP database and stolen their political identities.
"They changed me from a strong Republican to weak Democrat," said Eric Krieg, a Munster engineer. He is one of three men seeking the Republican nomination for county surveyor. "My first reaction was that it is ridiculously petty. I have never voted Democrat in my entire life."
Peter N. Karagan, a Munster real estate businessman, said, "I was downgraded to a strong Democrat. That doesn't describe me when I'm running in a Republican primary for state representative House District 12." He is one of two Republicans running for the seat.
The two want an investigation by the Indiana Republican Party to find who trashed their reputations with distorted party loyalty grades entered into Voter Vault, a national Republican voter database.
Neither man said he has evidence pinpointing who did that, but both said they have been at odds with Kim Krull, the county Republican chairwoman.
Krull and George Janiec, GOP vice chairman and manager of the county's Voter Vault section, said Friday a complaint filed last month by Michael Neal, chairman of the county's Young Republicans, was resolved recently with a finding that there was no wrongdoing.
Neal insisted Friday the investigation is ongoing and should result in a future hearing before state party officials.
Pete Seat, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said Friday, "A complaint has been received. It is our practice to not publicly comment on these issues."
Krieg and Karagan argue the misuse of Voter Vault is intended to starve them of campaign contributions and votes before their contests in the May 8 primary and could be used to punish others who don't toe the local leadership's line.
County Republicans also have been careful to avoid past problems when Democrats in Republican guise kept the party weak.
Seat said there is nothing sinister about political parties gathering information on people's political leanings.
"It is no secret that both parties maintain a list of registered voters in the state," Seat said. "Ours just happens to be called Voter Vault."
The Democratic Party reportedly calls its registries DataMart and DemZilla.
Janiec downplayed Voter Vault as well.
"It's open to candidates and people close to the party leadership doing voter research for candidates and checking voter registrations of people claiming to be Republicans. It's a phone directory," Janiec said.
Neal said phone books don't grade people as strong or weak Republicans or Democrats; such grading exerts influence in a county where party loyalty is crucial to winning or losing public office as well as government jobs and promotions.
Janiec said party classification is determined by voting history, demographics and other political associations.
"The only thing it's good for is determining whether or not you are going to get junk mail from the local Republican and Democratic candidates," Janiec said.