Nerheim says he backed out of debate because of format, challenger's conduct

State's attorney cites concerns about format, rival's conduct

  • Republican Michael Nerheim, left, and Democrat Eric Rinehart are running for Lake County state's attorney.

    Republican Michael Nerheim, left, and Democrat Eric Rinehart are running for Lake County state's attorney.

Updated 10/16/2020 1:08 PM
Editor's note: The story has been changed to update an incomplete quote and correct when Lori Nerheim's email was sent.

Citing concerns with the format and his opponent's recent conduct, Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim backed out of an online debate earlier this week against Democratic challenger Eric Rinehart.

The virtual event was hosted on Facebook by JustDoIt_Vote Coalition, a Lake County-based group that focuses on educating millennials and young people and getting them out to vote.


Nerheim's sister, Lori Nerheim, who works on his campaign, gave notice on Sunday that he would not be participating. Lori Nerheim sent an email to the organizers stating he was not attending because the debate's format was not provided, the rules for use of video and images were unclear and that Rinehart had already shown he does not abide by agreed-upon rules.

The email was read aloud Monday night on the livestream to the predominantly Black group by one of the debate moderators, Yashin Phillips.

"Mike looks forward to continuing to be active in the Black community including in many forums related to issues experienced by people of color," the email from Lori Nerheim concluded.

Wygenia Brisco, who founded the coalition, said there were no stated rules for the debate because that's the way millennials do things.

"They don't do it like the typical debates used to be years ago," said Brisco, a baby boomer who serves as an adviser to the group.

Rinehart said Monday night he was disappointed that his Republican opponent did not participate in the forum.

"We've had several good discussions over the last few days, and I think the voters have learned a lot listening to our different viewpoints," Rinehart said during the livestream.

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Lori Nerheim said Wednesday an example of Rinehart's not abiding by rules is that he misconstrued a comment Michael Nerheim made during a Daily Herald editorial board endorsement interview. In a TV ad that focuses on wrongful convictions in Lake County, Rinehart's campaign includes a clip of Nerheim saying "mistakes were made," without context. Nerheim was discussing the work he's done to prevent wrongful convictions.

"A big part of this review process is to find out how these cases happen in the first place, find out what mistakes were made and then put protocols into place to make sure they don't happen again," Nerheim said during the endorsement interview in September.

Lori Nerheim said Rinehart used the clip out of context in violation of rules the Daily Herald laid out. The Daily Herald requests that if candidates use quotes from the endorsement interviews, they do so "fairly with proper context."

Rinehart's campaign manager, Xavier Nogueras, said Wednesday he did not believe the quote was taken out of context because the ad was about how Nerheim hasn't fired a deputy in the state's attorney's office who has been involved with wrongful convictions.

"It isn't that Nerheim made a mistake, it's that mistakes continue to have been made for a decade and he's keeping someone who could have been responsible," Nogueras said.

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