“He was aggressive” — Dem. Party Vice Chair gets angry with war veteran in attempt to pressure him out of political campaign

Don Westerhausen
Don Westerhausen, St. Joseph County Democrat Party Vice Chair — Photo: https://healthcare.ascension.org/doctors/1871598235/donald-robert-westerhausen,-jr-kokomo-in

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — REAL News Michiana has learned the new Vice Chair of the St. Joseph County Democrat Party, Dr. Don Westerhausen, became aggressive and angry with an Iraq War Veteran who is attempting to run for the South Bend Common Council 6th district seat on the Democrat ticket. Westerhausen, who is a 3 time failed political candidate himself, has a documented temper that reportedly lost him his job as a practicing cardiologist at Elkhart General Hospital.

This latest incident of aggression was aimed toward 32-year-old Iraq War Veteran, Bruce Mitchell, who has thrown his hat into a South Bend Common Council race. Mitchell is attempting to challenge incumbent Sheila Niezgodski (D) in a primary in May. In an attempt to prevent spending money on a primary race, Westerhausen and Democrat Party Chair Diana Hess, have decided to use their authority to not certify Mitchell's bid by using an obscure Indiana law. According to Indiana statute, a candidate can only run on a party's ticket if they've voted in two of the party's primaries and those were the latest primaries for them to vote in. While Mitchell has only voted on a Democrat ticket, he's only voted in one primary.

Flier for Bruce Mitchell's campaign

However, the party chair can make an exception and allow Mitchell to run anyway. While that is what is normally done, Hess and Westerhausen have decided to not allow the Black and Hispanic War Veteran a chance at unseating their white Democrat incumbent.

"I've only talked to this guy (Westerhausen) two times." Mitchell told RNM. "The second time was his aggression."

Mitchell tells RNM that he had a sit-down meeting with both Diana Hess and Don Westerhausen when he initially decided to run for the seat. He said they never asked him not to run and instead seemed excited that he was getting more involved in the party.

"They were offering to put me on all kinds of boards. They were going to put me on the party Twitter page. They wanted to get involved in my charity work and events to register voters." Mitchell said.

Then, at what appears to be at the direction of Hess and Westerhausen, former St. Joseph County Treasurer Mike Kruk submitted a candidate filing challenge with the St. Joseph County Election Board.

Shortly after Kruk filed the challenge, Mitchell tells RNM that Westerhausen called him acting aggressive and angry.

"He asked me what I thought about what's going on." Mitchell said. "Then he said 'I thought we agreed you weren't going to run and you were going to be part of something else.' We didn't agree on anything like that."

Mitchell explains he was at a Superbowl Party during the call and Westerhausen became aggressive and angry. At that point, Mitchell tells RNM he hung up the phone.

"I said 'have a good night' and hung up." Mitchell said.

The next morning, Westerhausen sent Mitchell a text message apologizing for his outburst.

There is a hearing with the St. Joseph County Election Board regarding Mitchell's candidacy on February 22nd. If Hess and Westerhausen don't budge, it does not appear Mitchell will be on the ticket. The issue was discussed on February 15th. However, a decision on the validity of his candidacy was tabled for one week.


In October of 2022, RNM published a story regarding Westerhausen's temper, who was at the time a St. Joseph County Commissioner candidate. Several sources told RNM Westerhausen's temper reportedly led to multiple disciplinary actions as a medical professional. Some reports claim his temper was so bad, he left his job at Elkhart General because the alternative was losing admitting privileges at the hospital.

“It was not a unique experience to get yelled at by Don Westerhausen.” One source, who will not be named out of fear of retaliation, said.

That source claimed Westerhausen was forced to go to corrective counseling because of his temper and aggression toward hospital staff, mainly female nurses.

After counseling, Westerhausen would typically clean up his act a bit. But, according to sources who wish not to be named, he’d slowly “creep back into classic Don Westerhausen… mean and aggressive.”

It turns out, the brunt of his aggressiveness was toward young, female nurses who were just starting their careers.

“He didn’t hesitate to take advantage of that lack of experience. He didn’t waste any time exploiting that.” A source said. “The whole ER would see. He would make a scene in the ER or hallway… People were afraid of him.”

Sources also tell RNM, Westerhausen’s last outburst at the hospital was about to lead to him losing admitting privileges or a suspension. Instead of facing that punishment, he abruptly packed up and resigned, leaving prior to the 2020 election cycle because he didn’t want it to affect his political prospects.

NOTE*** Westerhausen ran as a Democrat for the District 5 seat of the Indiana House of Representatives in 2020, but lost in a close race to Republican Dale Devon.

“His entire career was in and out of disciplinary action.” A source said. “He is a very talented cardiologist. They’re hard to find. (That’s why he wasn’t let go years earlier)”

Westerhausen was last practicing medicine in Kokomo, according to records obtained by REAL News Michiana.


Public reviews made online seem to echo the claims made by Westerhausen’s former colleagues and subordinates.

“I only had a brief interaction with Dr. Westerhausen (thank goodness). He had no bedside manor (sic) whatsoever. By far the rudest physician I have ever talked to especially considering the circumstances. I was in extreme distress. He made me feel like I was an inconvenience for seeking help. If you feel like your patient is an inconvenience, maybe you should consider another career.” A review on Healthgrades.com from September 14, 2018, states.

“My mom was to have fluids taken off her lungs and have draining ports installed. Dr. W talked my mom into signing a DNR paper but my mom didn’t want to be on life support; she wanted other efforts made. When the nurse called to get the order in, he yelled at the nurse, then yelled at me because he didn’t feel that was the right thing for my mom to do, even though it was her wish. He dropped my mom as a patient because he didn’t get his way. Now she can’t have any NorthCentral Card Group doc.” Another reviewer from 2016 stated.

“Run as fast as you can from this doctor. He is the most heartless, which I find ironic, person I have met. He will talk down to you and become irritated by your questions. I will be telling everyone that I know about how much pain he has caused my family in a time when caring words and explanations would go a long way in helping us except (sic) the Inevitable. Beacon you are better then (sic) this doctor!” Another patient wrote in 2016.

“Difficult to imagine less compassion or willingness to listen.” A different patient wrote in 2016.

“The one star reviews say what was my experience.” Another reviewer wrote in May of this year.

REAL News Michiana reached out to Westerhausen for comment regarding the allegations about his behavior and temper. We also requested he release his records and notes from his alleged mandatory counseling. He never responded.

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