The Daily Reporter/Hancock County Public Library debate series continues at 6 p.m. Monday with a debate among the candidates for county coroner: Democrat Crystel Myers and independents Dan Devoy and Joe Fortner. The debate will be at the library, 900 W. McKenzie Road. The final debate in the series, Oct. 29, will feature the county council candidates.
GREENFIELD — Republicans have out-raised and outspent Democrats and Libertarians in races with Hancock County ties this year.
Year-to-date campaign finance reports were due Friday for county and state candidates; congressional candidates filed their reports earlier this week. In every local race, the GOP candidates have a least a 3-to-1 advantage in fundraising.
Democrats say the amount of cash stockpiled for GOP candidates is not surprising in the heavily Republican county. Republicans say while money cannot necessarily win an election, it doesn’t hurt to have the resources to get their message out to voters.
In the race for retiring Sen. Beverly Gard’s seat in the state Legislature, Republican Mike Crider has raised just over $95,000 this year and still has about $22,700 on hand. Gard has openly endorsed Crider and has spent more than $14,000 on his campaign, financially and in-kind contributions with a campaign intern.
Democrat Michael Adkins, by contrast, has raised $21,600 and has $3,300 on hand.
“For Hancock County, that’s not bad,” said Adkins. “I would have liked to have raised more, obviously.”
Adkins said the only way he can overcome Crider’s cash edge is by spreading his message, what he calls his non-partisan ideas. He hopes people will “vote for the person, not the party.”
“He’s got an advantage because he’s running on the Republican label,” Adkins said. “To a lot of voters, he’s not offered up anything but, ‘I’m running as a Republican.’ Maybe that’s enough to win in this county.”
Crider said it’s important to him to campaign on broad ideas and beliefs rather than name specific pieces of legislation he’d support. At the two men’s debate this week, Crider said his guiding philosophy is to under-promise and then over-deliver.
“I feel good about the range of support I’ve gotten both locally and from the business industry,” Crider said. “I think that kind of shows they consider me a legitimate candidate and they want to support somebody who they think is pro-business.”
Adkins has challenged Crider’s stance, saying he’s a “puppet” for Gard and special-interest groups. Such organizations do show up in the reports: Adkins got support from the Indiana Federation of Teachers; Crider received contributions from several political action committees, including the Indiana Coal PAC and Hoosiers for Economic Growth.
But Crider says while he’ll listen to ideas from businesses and organizations that have supported his campaign, ultimately he will make his own decisions.
“What else can (Adkins) say? He doesn’t have anything negative to say about me. My work record speaks for itself,” said Crider, a former director with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t get into positions I was in and survive and be successful by being a puppet for anybody.”
At the federal level, the race for Republican Congressman Mike Pence’s seat is no contest financially. Pence, who is running for governor, is leaving the seat wide open for three newcomers.
Republican Luke Messer has raised $930,655 and has more than $145,000 still on hand. By contrast, Democrat Brad Bookout has raised $54,857 and Libertarian Rex Bell, $6,995.
The vast majority of Messer’s contributions – about $650,000 – comes from hundreds of individuals across the 6th District, an examination of the reports shows. About $233,000 comes from political action committees including financial, oil and medical groups.
At the county level, the race for the District 3 seat on the Hancock County Commissioners also puts the Republican ahead. Incumbent Brad Armstrong has raised about $22,500 this year, while Democratic challenger Mike Merlau has raised nothing.
Merlau did not file a financial report by the Friday deadline, though he is required to do so under state election law. Merlau said his report would have shown no contributions and no expenditures. He has put out yard signs that he had saved from the two other times he ran for office.
Merlau said he is also not going door-to-door as much as he probably should, but is rather relying on networking with the community groups he is involved with to get votes. Still, Merlau acknowledges it will be difficult to win this year because of the people who vote straight-ticket Republican.
Armstrong, who is seeking a second term, said most of the money was spent in his contested primary race. He has had contributions from several local elected officials, including Mayor Dick Pasco, County Clerk Marcia Moore and county council members Bill Bolander and Rosalie Richardson. Several companies that have done business with the county have also contributed, including infrastructure consultants Shrewsberry and DLZ Indiana.
Armstrong said he tries to set aside the fact that companies have contributed to his campaign when deciding on who to hire for county work.
Several other candidates that should have filed financial reports did not Friday. Coroner candidates Dan Devoy and Crystel Myers did not file, nor did county council candidate Earl Smith.
A few school board candidates filed, but they were not necessarily required to. Because the office pays less than $5,000 a year, they do not have to form a campaign committee or file reports.
The trend of Republicans raising more than Democrats rings true at the party level as well. The Hancock County Republican Party reported raising $36,845 this year and has $11,550 on hand. The Democratic Party raised $8,557, with $4,773 on hand.
Adkins, chairman of the Hancock County Democratic Party, said while the party’s total is significantly less than what Republicans raise, the figure is fairly good for the local party. He said he’s been asking for more party contributions in recent years.
“We Democrats in Hancock County are used to being outspent,” Adkins said. “Because Republicans hold so many offices, that generates a lot more. Companies who want to do business with the counties and the cities, they’ll give to the party in control.”
Hancock County GOP chairwoman Janice Silvey said the party holds two successful fundraisers every year, and it also helps that the county is strongly Republican.
Armstrong views the healthy fundraising as a vote of confidence that county residents believe in the Republican platform.
“Hancock County is pretty strong Republican, and they’re going to vote with their checkbook on people that are like-minded,” Armstrong said. “Money doesn’t win an election, but you have to have the supplies to do it. You can be the best candidate in the world, and if you can’t get your message out, you’re not going to win.”