County council candidate has felony on recordJune 26, 2020
By CANDY NEAL
Mikayla Granados, who is running for a county council position, expected someone to ask her about the felony conviction she has on her record.
“I expected this question to come along at some point in time,” Granados said Thursday. “I do have a felony on my record, which is supposed to be dropped at the end of July or the beginning of August. That was part of my plea deal, that as long as I complete everything, it will be dropped to a Class A misdemeanor.”
In May 2019, Granados pled guilty to a Level 6 felony of possession of a narcotic drug and maintaining a common nuisance, and misdemeanor possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia. She will complete the last of her probation sentence in late July.
But state law says that a person who has a felony does not qualify to run for office.
She and Democratic Party Chairman Mike Kendall both said they will answer to any legal challenge of her candidacy.
“I will still run. If it gets challenged, we’re willing to take that to court,” Granados said. “This has been an issue in Indiana for quite some time, since that law was enacted in 1991. There have been felons who have run for city council positions and have been elected, and have served a few terms, until that bill was enacted.”
“I support her in her decision to remain a candidate,” Kendall said. “Our position is that she is qualified. She wants to run and stay in, and we fully support her.”
There is no process in place for checking a person’s candidacy when a person files. “It’s for the candidate to know if they are eligible to run,” County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock said. “If they’re qualified or eligible to run for office, it’s for the candidate to know before they turn in their candidacy paperwork.”
When Kendall asked her to run in January, Granados mentioned her situation. She’d already told Kendall about the conviction when he interviewed her in December for the party’s vice chair position.
“After checking with Indianapolis counsel, we were advised the plea was not a bar to her running for county council,” Kendall said.
He agrees with the advice.
“After I met with her and learned what had happened, I referred her to two attorneys, one in Evansville and one in Bloomington, who do post conviction relief,” he said. I think there’s some argument about whether the conviction, even though it was a guilty plea, will stand. But if it goes further, if someone files a petition with the courts, then we will answer this in more detail.”
Her candidacy can be challenged, Kippenbrock said, but who can do that is limited, now that the primary has occurred.
“If a person files to run for office, any voter that’s in the district that that seat would represent or a party chair could challenge that candidate,” she said. In this case, that challenge would go to straight to the county election board.
But now that the primary has already happened, “that challenge would have to come from another candidate running for that office, or a party chair,” Kippenbrock said. “And it would have to be in the form of a complaint to the court to have the person removed from the ballot. They cannot just fill out a challenge form and give it to the county election board.”
Granados said she is ready to respond to a challenge.
“I do think the law is outdated. I think it definitely should be a case-by-case basis,” she said. “There are a lot of good people who are felons, who end up in the wrong situation. Sometimes that happens in life. In my experience, I didn’t want to let a felony stop me or limit me in any type of capacity.”
“Mikayla is the finest person we can find to be in office,” Kendall said. “You’ve got a Latino woman working her way through college, working in a factory and supporting a fiancé who is disabled. Whatever she went through has made her a better and stronger person. Sometimes hardships people go through either bring them down and they never recover, or they learn from it and grow.
“That’s why judicial reform here, and an emphasis on rehabilitation, and fairness of the courts become such a big issue for her.”
Kendall said the state constitution stipulates that “the purpose of criminal law in Indiana and sentencing is rehabilitation, and not punishment. It says that specifically,” he said. “If the purpose is rehabilitation, then there is a question of what’s the purpose of barring people from voting if they’ve had a felony and they have done their sentence, or barring them from office if they’ve done their sentence.”
Kendall said Granados is very much qualified to be a county councilwoman. “Rather than disqualifying her, her experience is a reason she should be qualified, and is more qualified than most people,” he said. “Because she has seen it, and she has rehabilitated. She is a smart, strong woman, a model citizen.”
The Herald checked the records of the other local candidates running for county seats and found many infractions and a few misdemeanors. But state law does not list those type of convictions as disqualifying a person from seeking local office.
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