Bloomington City Council candidate and IU student David Wolfe Bender announced he has signed a lease for a new property in District 6 and plans to continue to run in the district, according to a copy of a letter addressed to the Monroe County Election Board on Thursday.
Bender’s counsel, whom he has since fired, according to the letter, had previously announced Bender’s intent to withdraw from the election in an email to the election board in March.
For the past month, the board has been looking into a complaint surrounding Bender’s residency. The complaint is based on an IDS investigation published in February that reported Bender did not live at the residence he listed on his declaration of candidacy and voter registration, according to current residents of the address.
Last week, the board said Bender could be charged with two Level 6 felonies if he knowingly filed a false candidate report or voter registration application.
In the letter, Bender said he entered into a sublease agreement for the summer at 304 E. 16th St. Bender wrote that he found out after the publication of the IDS investigation that the sublease agreement was invalid.
Bender also explained that his prior intent to withdraw was due to advisement from his lawyer at the time. He states in the letter that he now believes it was bad advice. Bender also said he does not agree with his former lawyer’s statement suggesting the election board’s investigation was a political attack.
Bender said in the letter he got a lawyer at the advice of Monroe County Democratic Party chair and election board member David Henry, who was one of the members investigating Bender at the time.
Bender wrote he has signed a new lease for property within the sixth district that begins May 1. He has also hired a new lawyer, former city council member and former candidate for Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Allison Chopra, who Bender plans to work with to correct his voter registration record and candidate filings.
“I got into this race because I wanted to prove that a 21-year-old student who loves this city could have the opportunity to voice their opinions and stand up for other students in our city government,” Bender wrote in the letter. “I still want to have that opportunity. I still want to prove that. And I would like to stay in this race to execute on that vision.”
In a separate letter sent to the election board, Chopra stated a sublease was signed in front of Bender, who believed the document was valid. She said Bender’s intent to establish residence in District 6, in addition to the sublease document, was sufficient to qualify the address as his residence under Indiana code 3-5-5-6. Because Bender said he was not aware the sublease was invalid, Chopra argued Bender did not knowingly lie on his candidate filing and voter registration.
Bender could not be reached for comment as of publication. Bender has only responded to the IDS’s requests for comment once on Feb. 16. Bender has not responded to any other requests.
The letter was dated the same day as the election board meeting Thursday, where members Nicole Browne, Donovan Garletts and David Henry all affirmed that they had not yet seen the email from Bender, although it had been received by counsel Molly-Turner King.
During the meeting, Turner-King announced that Guy Loftman, who had attended the last two meetings regarding Bender as a proxy for Henry, had resigned as proxy. Loftman initially took Henry’s place because Henry said it was inappropriate for him to oversee the matter. Garletts said Loftman’s decision was due to logistic reasons.
The board made a motion to recess, although it is unclear if the board will be able to meet to discuss the matter prior to the May 18 hearing date, when the board hopes to hear from Bender and the landlord of the property. In the letter, Bender said he plans to attend the meeting.
This story will be updated.