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Thursday, October 03, 2019 1:00 am

Judge says mayoral hopeful is OK to run

Overrules elections board in attempt at Decatur post

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

A Wells County judge overruled the Adams County Election Board on Wednesday and declared Daniel Rickord eligible to run for mayor of Decatur.

The decision means that Rickord, a Democrat, will challenge Republican Mayor Kenneth Meyer in the Nov. 5 municipal election.

“I am just very glad that people are getting the chance to vote. That's what this country is all about,” Rickord said in a telephone interview.

The ruling by Wells Superior Court Judge Andrew Antrim reversed a 2-1 party-line vote by the election board that disqualified Rickord in August after the Adams County Republican Party challenged his eligibility by claiming he had missed a state-imposed deadline for declaring his candidacy.

Rickord appealed the board's action to the Adams Circuit Court, which appointed Antrim as special judge after two Adams County judges recused themselves.

Antrim, a Republican, wrote in his ruling that Rickord and the Adams County Democratic Party had complied with Indiana election law for declaring and certifying Rickord as a candidate to fill a ballot vacancy. The election board's decision “was in error,” Antrim wrote.

Gerald Walker, chairman of the Republican Party, said Wednesday in a statement: “We took a narrow interpretation of election law. The judge sees otherwise, and we respect his decision. We look forward to the campaign.”

The dispute came down to whether Rickord was required to declare his candidacy in writing by June 30.

During the election board's hearing on the matter in August, Rickord and county Democratic Party Chairwoman Barb Engle argued that they had met all paperwork requirements and deadlines after Rickord's oral declaration of candidacy to Engle on June 27.

They said Engle filed with the county clerk forms declaring and certifying Rickord's candidacy on July 2, a day before the state deadline for doing so.

The Republican Party contended that Rickord's declaration had to be submitted in written form to the county clerk by June 30. The GOP majority on the three-member election board agreed and disqualified Rickord as a candidate in the Decatur municipal election.

Rickord later filed a lawsuit that asked the Adams Circuit Court to reverse the board's decision and find him eligible as the Democratic candidate for mayor of Decatur.

He stated in his appeal that “all required forms for his candidacy were timely filed” and that “there was no requirement that Chairman Engle file anything by the June 30 deadline” for a candidacy declaration.

In his ruling, Antrim referred to a provision of state election law requiring the written consent of a candidate chosen by a county chairman to be filed “not later than” the filing of the chairman's certification of that candidate. Antrim found that Rickord's written consent was filed before the July 3 deadline.

Rickord became the Democrats' candidate after nobody sought the nomination in the May 7 primary.

bfrancisco@jg.net