GREENFIELD — Republican Party officials dismayed at the tough tone of some of the primary campaigns have sent a reminder to candidates to focus on the issues in the final days before the election on Tuesday.
The candidates at whom the message appeared to be directed, however, are unapologetic and say they stand by things they’ve said and done during their runs for office.
The campaigns for prosecutor and commissioner have become increasingly heated in recent weeks, with candidates openly attacking one another. While party officials confirmed concern over those races prompted their response, the three-line email didn’t call attention to any particular race.
The email read: “Hancock County Republican Party urges our candidates to base their campaigns on issues. The incumbent candidates have a record of accomplishments for the office they hold, and the challenger has a plan for what they intend to do.
The voters will decide the winners at the polls.”
Chairwoman Janice Silvey, who sent the email to candidates and members of the party, said she intended the notice to be a general reminder to everyone.
“It was very general,” she said. “We weren’t singling anybody out.”
The party did request a meeting with Brent Eaton, who is challenging incumbent Michael Griffin in the race for prosecutor.
Eaton upset party officials when he accused Griffin of misappropriating funds to pay his salary. Griffin, who had used the prosecutor’s diversion fund to pay a portion of his salary since he took office in 2011, admitted he didn’t know the expenditure was prohibited by Indiana law. He has promised to correct the problem.
Party officials accused Eaton of taking the issue too far by suggesting Griffin offered “justice for sale” by profiting from a fund made of up fees paid by offenders whose prosecution is dropped.
Eaton emailed party leaders after reading their stance on the issue in the Wednesday edition of the Daily Reporter, which prompted leaders to suggest a meeting, Silvey said.
Eaton said he has communicated with party leaders and said he will continue to stand by his choice to bring a problem to light.
Still, he’s not looking to make more waves in the party.
“I’ve always been a Republican,” he said. “I know I’m going to be active in the party, win or lose, and I’m confident we’re going to be able to get along and work together moving forward. We’ll just have to see how it works out.”
Griffin declined to comment.
Party officials said earlier this week they also were concerned about Marc Huber’s tactics, but the candidate for Hancock County commissioner had not heard from party officials directly as of Friday, nor had incumbent Derek Towle.
Huber recently mailed a political flier accusing Towle of being unethical with his affiliation with the Hancock County Commissioners Political Action Committee. Huber suggests a “pay-to-play” arrangement is in place that gives companies that contribute to the PAC an inside track to later land contracts with the county.
Friday, both Huber and Towle said even though they never heard directly from the GOP central committee, they have been getting positive feedback from supporters.
“I’ve heard from people that have told me that (Huber) has gone too far,” Towle said. “For it to have a character assassination like that is too far; he overstepped the line…. I just want to make sure people know I want them to vote their conscience and know what they get is somebody who does have good character, has done a good job for them over the last eight years and will continue to do a good job for them.”
Huber, however, said he has no regrets over bringing issues to light. He has also heard from supporters who appreciate his efforts.
“If telling the truth and citing things that are factual is considered mud-slinging and dirty politics, I guess I’m guilty,” said Huber, adding he’s trying to spread the word to all county residents, not just please a core group of party leaders. “It’s no secret I’m not the party favorite. But I still 100 percent stand behind what I’ve done and what I’ve said.”
Despite the suggestion from party leaders that challengers have been too harsh in their criticisms of incumbents, Silvey said that she does not want that interpreted as the party endorsing the officeholders.
“We don’t choose one over the other,” she said. “I honestly don’t see a change (in the policy) while I’m (chairwoman).”