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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

politics bloomington

Bender withdraws from city council election after case referred to Attorney General Rokita, county prosecutor

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David Wolfe Bender, an IU student and the former Democratic nominee for the Bloomington City Council’s sixth district, withdrew from the race Thursday.  

The decision follows months of uncertainty about Bender’s residence at the time of filing his candidacy following the publication of an IDS story that found Bender did not live at the address he was registered at according to residents of the property. William Ellis — vice chair of the Monroe County Republican Party — filed a complaint with the Monroe County Election Board in March, culminating in a hearing on May 18

At the hearing, Bender said he did not intend to violate any laws and believed he was signing a legitimate sublease agreement for the property he listed as his address. However, Justin Fox, the landlord of the property, confirmed at the hearing that he had no knowledge of the agreement, making it invalid. Bender said he discovered in late February or early March that the person he signed the agreement with was not on the primary lease for the property — more than two months after signing the agreement and weeks after the publication of the IDS article.  

[Related: City Council candidate David Wolfe Bender is running in District 6, residents say he doesn't live there]

At the May 18 hearing, the election board unanimously voted to refer the matter to Monroe County Prosecutor Erika Oliphant, while two of the three election board members — Chair Donovan Garletts and County Clerk Nicole Browne — voted to send the case to Attorney General Todd Rokita as well.  

The board cited IC 3-14-1-13 and 3-14-3-1.1, which both refer to fraudulent reports, as potential violations. Both are Level 6 felonies, which is the lowest-level felony under Indiana law.

A Level 6 felony requires a prison sentence, which ranges from six months to two and a half years. However, a court can enter a judgement of a Class A misdemeanor, particularly if it is a first offense. This does not require jail time but has a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

In a letter sent to the BSquare Bulletin on Thursday, Bender reaffirmed he never intended to violate the law and said he is confident his interpretation of the law is correct.

[Related: Bender residency case referred to Indiana Attorney General, Monroe County Prosecutor]

Bender also said he hopes students continue to run in the future and that they do not let his experience deter them. 

“Still, withdrawing is what is right for the residents of the Sixth District,” Bender said in a letter sent to the BSquare Bulletin. “Allowing a new candidate to run in the general election will ensure our election in November is about nothing but the issues facing the Sixth District.” 

To fill Bender’s vacancy on the ballot, the Monroe County Democratic Party must convene a caucus to choose a new candidate. The deadline for filling a vacancy is July 3.  

According to the BSquare Bulletin, a potential candidate may be IU student Sydney Zulich, who has filed paperwork to run as an independent candidate but could still amend her filing to run as a Democrat.  

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