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Primary election will offer voters options in several local races

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GREENFIELD — A rush of last-minute candidate filings Friday will make for plenty of contested local races in the May 6 primary election.

Friday was the deadline for candidates to sign up for the primary ballot, and there are seven contested county races and four township races – all on the Republican ballot.

Filing in the final hours were Republicans Jeannine Gray, Carolyn Flynn and Bruce Fleming for Hancock County Council and Richard Walker for Hancock County commissioner.

That makes for contested races for the county commissioner seat; three county council seats; county prosecutor; sheriff; and clerk.

“I just think there needs to be a change for the Fourth District,” said Fleming, a New Palestine resident who will take on council President Bill Bolander. “When one person’s been there so long, they just need a break. They get tired.”

That’s the sentiment of many of the challengers, wanting to have a chance at public service and take on longtime incumbents. While newcomers acknowledge it could be difficult to overcome the name recognition of longtime elected officials, now is the time for some new faces in county government, they argue.

“We’ve had the same commissioner for eight years, and I think that’s a long enough term,” said Richard Walker, a Jackson Township farmer.

Walker and Marc Huber are both challenging Derek Towle, who is vying for his third term as county commissioner.

Huber, a county council member, acknowledges he has an uphill battle ousting an incumbent with plenty of money for campaigning. Towle is part of the commissioners’ political action committee, which has held fundraisers in recent years to keep incumbents in office. Huber said he plans to do door-to-door campaigning, social media and more to spread his message.

“Not anything is in stone just yet,” Huber added. “We’re just trying to get a game plan.”

But Towle said he’s vying for his third term because he has plenty of projects that he’d still like to see completed.

Towle said he wasn’t necessarily surprised that he was challenged for his seat: He’s faced challengers every time he has run for the office.

“I feel like I’ve done a good job at taking care of the county’s funds and running the county in a sense that’s progressive and not reckless,” Towle said.

Longtime county councilman Tom Roney is being challenged by Carolyn Flynn, a tea party activist who regularly attends county meetings and has been vocal against the council’s spending decisions.

And while John Jessup is seeking his second term on the county council, he’s facing two challengers: Jeannine Gray and Monty Zapf. Gray said she’s always had an interest in county government and believes now is the time to give an election a try.

“I know my district and I’m all ears,” she said.

The last-minute filers join those who have already filed for county seats, including incumbent Prosecutor Michael Griffin and challenger Brent Eaton; incumbent Sheriff Mike Shepherd and challenger Donnie Munden; and incumbent Clerk Marcia Moore and challenger Patte Cole.

Incumbents seeking re-election who did not get challengers include Hancock County Superior Court judges Terry Snow and Dan Marshall; Auditor Robin Lowder; Recorder Debra Carnes; Surveyor Susan Bodkin; Assessor Mary Noe; and Councilman Jim Shelby.

There are no contested GOP races at the state and federal level. Republican state Reps. Bob Cherry, Sean Eberhart and Brian Bosma did not have challengers, and neither did Republican U.S. Congressman Luke Messer.

There are, however, three Democrats hoping to win the nomination to run against Messer. Lane Siekman, Susan Hall Heitzman and Corinne Nicole Westerfield will vie for the Democratic nomination in the 6th Congressional District.

Those who pick a Democratic ballot this spring only have a few choices. No Democrats filed in the countywide races, and only three Democrats filed for township seats.

Democrat Judy Brown filed for Jackson Township board; Danielle Patterson, Vernon Township board; and Donald Waymire, Buck Creek Township trustee. Because they are the only Democrats in the primary election, they will automatically advance to the November general election ballot.

While Democratic voters have few choices this spring, Republicans will not only have choices for countywide seats but also a few township seats.

There are contested Republican races for Buck Creek Township board; Green Township board; Center Township Board; Vernon Township trustee and Vernon Township board.

But while some townships had plenty of candidates file for election, others still have some empty slots. Only one person filed for Blue River Township board, though three seats are available. There were no candidates who filed for Green Township trustee, and only two people signed up for the three open seats on the Brown Township board.

The results of the May 6 primary election will  give insight into who will ultimately hold the countywide seats for the next four years, but there could be some election surprises yet to come. Republicans are dominating this primary election cycle, but Democrats may file for seats that were vacant on their ballots later this summer and minor party candidates may also file for the general election.

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