CROWN POINT — Hammond Democrats have filed a ballot challenge against the Republican challenger to Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., asserting that an error in his candidate declaration paperwork makes him ineligible for the general election ballot.
Dave Woerpel, a Hammond city councilman and chair of the city’s Democratic Party organization, confirmed he filed the complaint with the county elections board on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Woerpel, Republican mayoral candidate Edward Lipkovitch Jr. failed to sign his own CAN-12 form, a statement of economic interest that all municipal candidates are required to submit when they declare for office. Instead, the form was both signed and notarized by Manny Candelaria Jr., a member of the Hammond school board, Woerpel said.
Lipkovitch, a 37-year-old Navy veteran and engineer, was nominated to run against McDermott by a caucus of Hammond Republicans in June. He had previously run as an independent write-in candidate for Hammond’s District 6 council seat in the 2015 general election.
Hammond Democrats contend that, since Lipkovitch didn’t sign his CAN-12, his declaration paperwork is incomplete. Since the deadline for a political party to fill a vacancy on the municipal election ballot passed on June 30, Lipkovitch cannot refile his paperwork to appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, Democrats argue.
Lipkovitch was not immediately available for comment. Hammond Republican Party chair Charlie Kallas called the challenge “frivolous” and “an attempt to smear Eddie Lipkovitch’s name.”
Kallas provided The Times with a copy of Lipkovtich’s CAN-12, timestamped June 20, which bears Candelaria’s signature in the space where the candidate was supposed to sign it. He speculated that Candelaria mistakenly signed the CAN-12 because the candidate signature field appears just above the notary section on the second page of the form.
The Lake County Board of Elections is expected to take up Woerpel’s challenge and other election complaints at its Sept. 6 meeting. Lipkovitch’s campaign will file an amended CAN-12 to “get things sorted out” with the elections office before then, Kallas said.
Woerpel called the mistake “amateurish” and said it showed a lack of seriousness on the part of Hammond Republicans to mount a serious challenge to McDermott.
“I question that this guy was a serious challenger for mayor,” he said. “Why didn’t he file for the May primary like all the other candidates running for office?”