(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County official will not be able to seek a third term as a Republican unless the removal of his name from the ballot is overturned on appeal, as The La Porte County Election Board on Friday voted to remove Commissioner Rich Mrozinski from the May 7th Republican primary ballot.
The request was made by La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens.
One of the violations cited by Stevens and upheld by the election board was Mrozinski's failure to place his initials, as required by state law, on three separate places on the paperwork candidates must file to run for office. The Election Board also agreed with Stevens that Mrozinski should be taken off the ballot due to being a Republican not in good standing with the La Porte County Republican Central Committee.
The committee, made up of Republican precinct committeepersons throughout the county, voted unanimously in September of 2022 to remove Mrozinski as an official member of the party.
Stevens said that among the acts of defiance against the party by Mrozinski included making a $100 contribution to the campaign of Democrat Sheila Matias in her bid for a second term as a county commissioner in 2022. She was soundly defeated by Republican Connie Gramarossa, who’s now president of the three-member executive branch of county government.
He brought up other issues, such as Mrozinski placing a rubber snake inside a paper bag that he left outside the office door of Republican La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz late at night following a political feud.
Stevens cited a law upheld in federal courts that guarantees political parties freedom from associating with candidates not in good standing with their parties and the ability to protect themselves “from intrusion by those with 'adverse political principles.” He also referred to a 1984 court ruling against an elected official from Lake County whose name was removed from the ballot for supporting Democrats and Independents, before going to note how the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows “a political party great leeway in governing its own affairs.
Representing Mrozinski was attorney Alan Sirinek, who argued the lack of initials on his candidacy filing documents was not strong enough grounds for removal from the ballot.
Sirinek said election laws, under state statute, are meant to be viewed with flexibility to prevent voters from being disenfranchised too easily.
“I think it falls under the category of a mere technicality,” he said.
Election Board President Brody Shoffner disagreed, saying “I don’t see any wiggle room. It says the candidate must separately initialize each of those statements.”
Sirinek also said Mrozinski was not notified in advance about the meeting where the vote was taken to oust him from the party, alleging that was a violation of due process, where people have a right to defend themselves prior to a decision on a proposed act of discipline.
“Mr. Mrozinski was not advised in any shape or form this action was being contemplated. He learned after the fact in a newspaper article on it,” he said.
Sirinek said that no decision had been made yet on whether to appeal the decision.
Mrozinski has until Thursday to file an appeal with one of the LaPorte County courts.
Stevens said he was delighted with the decision, alleging Mrozinski also publicly slammed Gramarossa during her campaign. He also claimed Mrozinski lied about placing the snake until learning he was captured on video walking out of the building several hours before Stabosz found it outside his door the next morning.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
Sirinek said Republicans at the national level are angry about efforts to keep former president Donald Trump off the ballot this year in some states, yet “the local Republican Party has no problem with disenfranchising La Porte County citizens.
“I certainly felt the deck was stacked against us,” he said.
If Mrozinski loses on appeal, the former Democrat, when he served on the La Porte County Council, can still run for reelection in the November general election as a Libertarian, Independent or write-in candidate, per La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens. She also noted that the Democratic Party has Mike Kellems as its only candidate in the primary and that the candidate filing deadline for the primary has expired.