Times ClaimCheck

Critics challenge candidate's claim of re-election

2011-10-28T10:43:00Z 2011-10-28T20:40:04Z Critics challenge candidate's claim of re-electionBy Marisa Kwiatkowski marisa.kwiatkowski@nwi.com, (219) 662-5333 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | A Valparaiso City Council candidate's use of "re-elect" has critics offering him a few choice words, a Times inquiry found.

The probe was prompted by complaints to The Times' ClaimCheck initiative, through which reporters seek to verify claims made by candidates running for local public offices.

In recent campaign materials, Republican Mike Baird urged voters to "re-elect" him to the 4th District seat on the Valparaiso City Council. He said he was elected by a Republican Party caucus in August 2010 to finish the term of former Councilwoman Kelly Ward, who moved out of District 4.

Critics, including his opponent in the election, argue he was appointed not elected, and is misleading voters by claiming otherwise. Democrat Lily Schaefer, running against Baird, said "re-elect" makes it sound like Baird has faced voter scrutiny when he hasn't.

"To say that an election by the Republican caucus is the equivalent of a general election by your district is an insult to all the voters in the 4th District," she said.

Election officials have received complaints about it but nothing formally in writing, said Kathy Kozuszek, Democratic director of Porter County Voter Registration office and election administrator. She said the board only considers formal complaints.

Dale Simmons, co-general counsel for the Indiana Election Division, said Baird's use of "re-elect" does not violate a law prohibiting false representation as an officeholder in campaign materials because Baird is a councilman.

Baird said he chose the use of "re-elect" to speak to his experience on the City Council.

"What I feel, what we were trying to communicate, is ... I'm not going to be new to the City Council if I'm elected," he said. "It's a continuation of my current service on the City Council."

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