South Bend Common Council candidate allowed to run following intervention by the county election board

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 6:24 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - Democratic common council candidate for South Bend’s 6th district, Bruce Mitchell, will be allowed to run after his candidacy was challenged for not having voted in the previous two primaries as a Democrat.

The St. Joseph County Election Board split the vote on a motion to uphold the challenge brought forth by a democrat voter in South Bend’s 6th district.

Republican and Board Chair Thomas Dixon voted to reject the challenge saying the state statute they’re being asked to follow is discriminatory to Black candidates based on the history of voting discrimination toward protected groups in the United States.

Democrat Charles Leone voted to uphold the challenge. While he says the ‘two primary’ voting statute is problematic, he says the election board’s job is to apply state statutes to the letter of the law, not necessarily the spirit of the law.

Republican and County Clerk Amy Rolfes abstained from the vote.

The one-to-one vote means the motion did not carry, and the challenge was rejected, allowing Mitchell to run. He’ll face incumbent Sheila Niezgodski in the primary on May, 2nd.

“It just gives me an opportunity to run, and that’s all we were asking for. It’s just an opportunity. If it’s a ‘no’ at the end and I don’t win, I’ll shake her hand and endorse here, but just allow us the chance to fight,” Mitchell said.

The board chair says this situation differs from one St. Joseph County republicans encountered in 2022 when they didn’t certify a candidate for county commission based on the same statute. Dixon said the difference is that the Republican candidate wasn’t being discriminated against as a protected class, but the statute does discriminate against Mitchell as a candidate with Afro-Latino heritage.