Messmer calls on Granados to withdraw from raceJuly 1, 2020
By CANDY NEAL
Dubois County Democratic Chairman Mike Kendall said he still stands behind Mikayla Granados’ decision to continue running for the Dubois County Council despite having a felony conviction.
But Republican Party Chairman Mark Messmer said she should withdraw from the race.
As of Tuesday afternoon, no one had submitted a legal challenge to her candidacy.
Kendall wants to make clear that Granados did tell him about her conviction before filing for the office.
“This all started when I saw how talented Mikayla was, and we needed to fill the slot for the vice chair for the Democratic Party,” he said. “I met with her, and she told me. And I tried to vet it out myself, but that only involved the party rules for serving.”
He approached her in January about running for the council seat.
“I am responsible for telling her she could run for office,” Kendall said. “She asked me, and I checked with appropriate government and private lawyers, and they said it was no bar to her candidacy. Their advice was wrong.”
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.
State law says a person who has a felony does not qualify to run for office. However, there is no process in place for checking a person’s candidacy when a person files. County Clerk Amy Kippenbrock said it’s up to the candidate to know if they are eligible to run.
Law states that in order for a candidate to be considered for being removed from the ballot at this point in the election process, someone running for the same seat or a party chairman, must file a challenge with the courts. The candidate can also withdraw.
Messmer said the appropriate thing for Granados to do is to withdraw her name from the ballot, “because she will never hold office. If she wins [in November], then I will certainly challenge it in court, because she’s not eligible to hold office.”
He has not yet decided if he will file a challenge now or wait to do so if she wins. He doesn’t believe any of the three Republican candidates have made a decision either. He said he hasn’t looked into the filing process for challenging it yet.
“There’s probably a limited window of time just to file court dockets and everything else to get moving on it, if it’s going to happen,” he said. “But I don’t think anybody’s decided what to do.”
Messmer said the law for running and holding office is clear that “even if her felony gets reduced to a misdemeanor, that doesn’t change the fact that she’s still not eligible,” he said. “If you read all of the section on a candidate’s eligibility and go down farther in the disqualification of candidates section, it says even if a person has pleaded guilty to the felony and it gets reduced to a misdemeanor upon completing their probation, it does not clear them from the felony disqualification.
“Until it’s expunged from her record, which I believe is at least five years, or vacated or she’s pardoned, she is not eligible.”
Kendall said he is ultimately responsible for having Granados on the ballot. “I’m the county chair; I asked her to run,” he said. “She leveled with me at the beginning. And knowing the facts of the case, I know that people take plea deals when they’re innocent, because they don’t want to run the risk of going to prison. And that is a big factor.”
Since this has been made public, Kendall and other supporters have done more research and have learned some things, he said.
“One thing is that everybody in the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate can serve with a felony,” Kendall said. “I’ve also learned by hearsay that several of the sitting state senators and state representatives have felonies, but no one has ever challenged them. The same statutory language that makes it a disqualification for Mikayla also mentions then that they can’t serve either, theoretically.
“If state legislators are serving and you know by hearsay that they’ve got felonies, this was in the context of the lawyer saying, ‘Oh don’t worry about it. Nobody is going to do anything because of that.’”
He added that other people currently serving in local offices have had their own share of charges, though those were misdemeanors.
“We found out that we have county office holders — current office holders — with strings of DWIs, and speeding tickets and failure-to-yield tickets, all this kind of stuff,” Kendall said. “I thought to myself, morally, if past conduct is relevant, if you repeatedly commit misdemeanor crimes that you can only go to jail for 365 days, is that fair to Mikayla? This is a one-and-done incident with her.
“If that’s the case, what about situations where there was discretionary authority for the prosecuting attorney here as to whether or not to enhance it? You know, if you’re under your second, third or fourth DWI, and nobody enhances it, it just keeps being treated as a misdemeanor.”
Messmer said if someone doesn’t agree with a law, that person can work to get the law changed.
“Whether it’s a law that she feels is outdated, or whether the Democratic chairman thinks she’s a great person, it’s really all irrelevant. The law is what it is,” Messmer said. “If somebody wants to change the law, then they need to pursue changing the law. But you can’t just ignore flaws that you disagree with.”
Kendall said he continues to support Granados’ candidacy.
“She is a good person and she is the epitome of rehabilitation,” he said. “I think she is the most qualified. She’s going to St. Mary’s College, studying to be a lawyer. She is working full-time in the factory. She is taking care of her fiancé, who has a disabling disease, and she is still heavily involved with him and his child. She’s got the ambition. She’s got the moral drive and sense of dedication. She is pulling herself up by the proverbial bootstraps to do this.”
Kendall wants the people to have the final say in November.
“I think the voters ought to make this decision,” he said. “I think the idea that someone should or should not serve for what I would call moral/political policy/social norm reasons, that should be decided by the voter.”
Messmer disagrees. He thinks Granados should withdraw.
“That is what she should do,” Messmer said. “Because she broke the law by filing.”
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