Team Hammond co-leaders stage debate
HAMMOND | Not one Republican mayoral hopeful on the May 3 primary ballot participated in a Hammond GOP debate on Saturday.
George Janiec - who was tossed from the ballot by the Lake County elections board earlier this year - and Humberto Prado were the only two Republicans who attended.
Prado walked out because Janiec isn't on the ballot.
"I introduced myself, spoke a bit, and apologized for stepping away, but I didn't think it fair for them to hear a debate where one of the people in the debate wasn't on the ballot officially," Prado said.
Janiec instead debated Jim Premeske, a Democratic mayoral hopeful who co-directs the Team Hammond taxpayer group with Janiec.
GOP Chairwoman Kim Poland said she was surprised by the turn of events.
"At that point, I'm sitting there, and I didn't know where to go. I had Premeske there, who's a mayoral candidate. So I asked him to step up and debate," said Poland, who also is a Hammond city councilwoman.
Four remaining GOP candidates didn't attend. Poland didn't invite Robert Pastore because she said he left the party in "shambles" after leaving his post as city GOP chairman, a charge he denied.
David Hacker didn't show, as Poland said she expected. Hacker said organizers changed the time and place twice before Hacker said he wouldn't attend.
Matt Saliga skipped the event because he said it looked like a campaign rally for Janiec.
Janiec said the event would have turned into a campaign rally had Premeske not agreed to debate.
"Everyone was there, everyone could see what happened," Janiec said. "On the basis of it not turning into a George Janiec presentation, we brought up who was available. It was a coincidence that he was there."
Jeff MacDonald didn't show and hasn't returned Poland's calls, she said. He didn't return a call seeking comment.
Poland defended Janiec's inclusion in the debate, despite not being on the ballot, because his removal was "low politics."
The elections board faulted Janiec for holding a nonpartisan School City of Hammond board seat while seeking partisan office. He has a court appeal pending.
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