Debate today already splits Hammond GOP
HAMMOND | A Republican mayoral debate today will exclude one candidate while admitting another who isn't on the ballot.
Republican opponents of George Janiec are shaking their heads at Hammond GOP Chairwoman Kim Poland's decision to include Janiec, who is fighting a court battle to get back on the ballot.
Republican hopeful Robert Pastore wasn't invited, which he says shows the city GOP organization already is lined up behind Janiec.
"(Pastore's) been harmful to the party and members of the party. He's put us in difficult situations when he was chairman. We've had to clean up after him," Poland said. "Home rule - it is my call to not have him at this debate and I called it."
Pastore denied that he left the party in shambles.
"It seems like (Janiec's) group is running things without any collaboration with the other candidates," he said.
GOP candidates David Hacker, Jeff MacDonald and Humberto Prado remain, but only Prado has confirmed his attendance, Poland said. Janiec will attend.
Janiec bested Saliga in the Republican primary in 2007 and lost to incumbent Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. by fewer than 500 votes in the general election. The Lake County elections board removed Janiec because he holds a nonpartisan seat on the School City of Hammond board and he appealed that decision.
Saliga also objected to using a debate as a party fundraiser. The Hammond GOP, a separate entity from the Lake County Republican Party, is asking $10 per person or $5 from students.
County and city GOP leaders learned of Saliga's decision not to participate after being contacted by The Times.
"I would venture to say (Saliga) is either ... afraid to engage in constructive and intellectual debate on campaign issues and city problems, or is maybe just showing a sign of immaturity," Janiec said.
Poland defended including Janiec and excluding Pastore.
"In my opinion (Janiec) will be back on the ballot. That's the right thing to do," Poland said.