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Heitkemper surprises Miller by 112 votes; Deatrick unseats Sheriff Smith by 1,284

For the first time in memory, Republicans last night took control of the three-member Harrison County Board of Commissioners, with Jim A. Heitkemper barely ousting incumbent Democrat Commissioner Terry L. Miller by 50.44 percent of the vote to Miller’s 49.52 percent. Heitkemper, a farmer and home improvement contractor, won by 112 votes.
Heitkemper will join Republican J.R. Eckart and Democrat James Goldman on the board.
On the other side of the ballot, Democrat Mike Deatrick won the sheriff’s race with a solid 55.16 percent of the vote to Republican incumbent Sheriff C. Wendell Smith’s 44.77 percent.
The Republicans also kept control of the seven-member council, with Republican incumbent councilmen Gary Davis, Kenneth R. Saulman and Ralph E. Sherman winning re-election. They will join Republican colleague Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads, who has two years left on her four-year term.
Despite rain throughout the day, 12,603 voters representing a 47 percent turnout cast a ballot yesterday.
The mood swung from jubilant at the courthouse, where supporters had handshakes and hugs for the victorious Deatrick and his soon-to-be-chief, Gary Gilley, to quiet at the EDVACT Building, where a group of disappointed supporters congratulated Sheriff Smith on a clean race and respectable showing.
Meanwhile Smith’s chief, Jodie Wilson, took over the microphone shortly before 9 p.m. with a well-done rendition of country music star David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name.” He was backed by Smith on lead guitar.
Sheriff’s race
“People made their choice,” said Smith after the vote totals were in. “Life goes on. When the Lord shuts one door, he always opens another. My congratulations to him.”
Smith, named sheriff by GOP leaders after the heart attack death of Sheriff William E. (Bill) Carver over a year ago, said he won’t seek the post four years from now. Formerly in security, Smith said that at age 62, he will either look for a new job or retire.
Deatrick attributed his win to strong backing from the “young generation of adults” and others who know him well. “We had the best supporters,” he said.
A former councilman, Deatrick won the sheriff’s race on his second try. He lost in the 1998 Democratic Primary for sheriff to incumbent Sheriff Clyde Sailor.
Throughout this campaign, Deatrick, a deputy on the sheriff’s force, said he and his boss had no problems. And as promised during the campaign, Deatrick said when he takes office in January, he’ll work to improve the volunteer reserve officers’ force to free up officers for patrol duty.
“The first thing we’ll do in January is up the patrols and get a well-trained reserve force,” he said, adding: “I feel great.”
Gilley said, “This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, besides my baby and my wife.”
Gilley said he and Deatrick have campaigned the last four years. “We outworked our opponent,” he added.
Deatrick’s wife, Joyce, will return as matron, a position she held under Sailor and Carver. “I feel terrific,” she said, even though she is recovering from recent surgery. “I’m relieved.”
Commissioner’s race
Despite his loss by 112 votes, three-term incumbent Commissioner Miller is satisfied he’s done the best job he could, has no regrets and no clue as to why he lost.
“I really don’t know,” he said last night. “I’ve been around a long time. That’s the way it goes.”
Heitkemper likewise said Miller has done a good job, and couldn’t single out any issue that made the difference.
“There was no concrete issue; it’s just that a change is good, probably, and (the voters) probably were willing to give me a chance.”
The closeness of the race came as no surprise. “I knew it would be exactly like this,” Heitkemper said. “I just knew it. It was a tight race all the way through … I ran against a guy who’s been in such a long time, who’s done a good job.”
Heitkemper said he thinks a solution can be reached with the animal control issue, because he thinks the $300,000 the council is willing to spend can provide an adequate center.
He doesn’t think Harrison Countians will see much difference with a Republican majority on the board.
“Harrison County by nature is very conservative,” he said. “There’s little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans” who hold county offices.
“I’m looking forward to getting to work to do what needs to be done,” Heitkemper said. “I hope I can do as effective a job as Terry was able to do. I think Terry did a fine job. I think we will, too.”
All four incumbents seeking another term on the Harrison County Council were re-elected yesterday.
In District 1, Democrat Alvin M. Brown of Palmyra defeated Republican challenger Lori A. Davis, 1,375 votes to 1,090, or 56 percent of the votes compared to 44 percent for Davis. (Brown defeated Davis by 255 votes in the 1998 general election.)
“This was probably the best election I’ve ever won, due to the false information Lori Davis mailed out Saturday, and I didn’t have time to rebut it,” an angry Brown said last night. “Even the Republican council chair (Gary Davis) rebutted it.”
Brown carried all five of the precincts that vote in the District 1 race.
“I think a lot of people didn’t pay any attention” to the mailing, Brown said. “I think they judged me on my merits.
“They may not always like what I say, but I explain my thinking to them,” he said.
In District 2, Republican Gary Davis, the current council chair, defeated William T. (Bill) Nichols, the Democrat nominee. Davis carried five of the seven precincts, winning 1,572 votes (51 percent) to Nichols’ 1,504 (49 percent).
“I’m relieved,” Davis said. “I knew the hospital and animal control people were working against me.”
Davis said he believes he was able to win despite that because of what he’s done his first term.
“I think the people recognize that I’m well qualified for the job,” he said. “I always try to do what’s best for the county.”
In District 3, Republican Kenneth R. Saulman beat his challenger, Democrat Jesse W. Mathes, 2,122 votes to 1,628 (57 percent to 43 percent.)
“Evidently, most of the people must be thinking we’re doing what we should be doing,” Saulman said. The council has “made some mistakes, but we have the taxpayers’ best interest at heart.”
Saulman said he will continue to “work just as hard” in his next four-year term as he has in the past.
“I think we need to prioritize and change some things around,” Saulman said, but, overall, he said he has “a good feeling” about the council.
In District 4, Republican Ralph Sherman defeated his opponent, Democrat Ray (Radar) Lillpop, with 55 percent of the vote, or 1,608 votes, compared to Lillpop’s 45 percent, or 1,319 votes.
Sherman chalked up his victory to “name recognition and a clean campaign.”
He said he hoped his win was also an indication that voters are pleased with his past performance.
Sherman carried 10 of the 13 precincts, some just by one vote, and the two candidates tied in one precinct.
In the auditor’s race, which was wide open since the incumbent, Karen (Shireman) Engleman, was barred by term limits from seeking re-election, Democrat Pat Wolfe beat challenger Kathy Jo Arnold Eckart, the Republican candidate. Wolfe had 51 percent of the vote (6,174 votes) to Eckart’s 49 percent (5,941 votes).
“I went in to this thinking I had a 50-50 chance,” Wolfe said. “The Eckarts are a strong name. (Kathy) was a good candidate. I appreciated her campaign.”
Wolfe carried 18 of the 35 precincts, and the two women tied in one precinct.
“I had a lot of people, a lot of Democrats, working hard for me,” Wolfe said. “I thank God, my family and the people who voted for me.”
Gerald Saulman was elected Harrison Township Assessor with 53.7 percent of the vote. Kenneth (Ken) Kitterman finished with 1,713 votes to Saulman’s 1,987.
Michael Beyerle had a strong victory with 57.9 percent of the vote in the Blue River Township Trustee race. Beyerle logged 376 votes to opponent Debbie Kepley Weathers’ 274.
Debbie Karcher was elected Posey Township trustee, capturing 53.3 percent of the vote. Her opponent, Edgar R. Poe, received 439 votes to Karcher’s 501.
Voters elected three of four candidates for the Heth Township Board. Gerald Jacobs led all candidates with 35.2 percent or 318 votes. Betty Jenkins was the second highest vote getter with 255. Wilbur (Bud) Neely captured the third seat.
Hill leads Sodrel; Young, Robertson expected to return to Statehouse
State Rep. Paul Robertson, D-Depauw, saw that his race was going well against newcomer Tom Powers last night and then left for Indianapolis, where state lawmakers are assembling to find out if Republicans or Democrats will assume control of the Indiana House of Representatives next year. By this morning, Robertson, a government teacher at Corydon Central High School, will know if he’s a member of the majority or minority party in the Statehouse. He has been in the House for 12 straight terms and was the Democratic whip last year.
The GOP is expected to retain control of the Senate.
Robertson easily defeated Powers in Harrison County, 7,014 votes to 4,913, and throughout House District 70. With 85 percent of the votes counted last night, Robertson had a commanding 58 to 42 percent lead.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Richard Young, D-Milltown, the Senate minority leader, lost to Republican newcomer Chris Byrd, 34, in Harrison County by 914 votes (6,542 to 5,628), but Young won Crawford County by about 1,000 votes and held a large 56 to 44 percent lead last night with 84 percent of the vote counted in Senate District 47. That district takes in several Southern Indiana counties, where Young works especially hard and Byrd may not be well known.
Young credited Byrd for a “very challenging campaign.” Young said a key issue was tax restructuring.
Young said he believes he has done a good job and was confident that if the votes were cast by the community leaders he works with on a consistent basis, he would win, because they know the job he has done.
Byrd worked hard. He said he knocked on 10,000 doors, and his family did another 4,000 or 5,000.
Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill, a Democrat seeking his third straight term, was beating New Albany truck and bus company entrepreneur Mike Sodrel by 9,000 votes with 92 percent of the vote counted about 10 o’clock last night.
Robertson complimented his opponent, Powers, the director of Harrison County Lifelong Learning, on a clean campaign that stuck to the issues. It was Powers’ first race and probably not his last. At Republican headquarters in Corydon last night, after standing on a parking lot for 11 hours in Jeffersonville, Powers said he would consult more with his campaign manager, his wife, Jane. He said he learned a lot about campaigning, however late. His issues were the disappearance of the state budget surplus and the stagnant economy.
Robertson said he ran on his record, but the main issue for all incumbents is the economy, which hurt many of them. Nevertheless, he said it was the lawmakers’ responsibility to “keep the ship of state moving forward.”
Legislators accomplished several things last year, despite the need for an agonizing special session, that may not show dividends for years to come, he said, including increased taxes on cigarettes, allowing dockside gambling, major restructuring of property taxes, eliminating inventory taxes at the rate of about 20 percent a year for the next five years, and concentrating on keeping education moving forward. Robertson said all those measures are strong economic development factors which will bear fruit many years hence.
3 fresh faces on SH school board
Carl E. Uesseler defeated Susie Rainbolt in the District 5 race for a seat on the South Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees. Rainbolt, the current board president, faced tough competition from Uesseler who cited 40 years experience and three degrees in education as some of his strong points.
Uesseler, 65, was superintendent of the Lanesville Community School Corp. from 1994 until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1999.
“I’ve lived here all my life, and my name is fairly well known. My public comments about my concern for the corporation, and some of the things I would like to do or see done” were things Uesseler felt helped give him an edge in the election.
Uesseler got 3,405 votes or 58.2 percent to Rainbolt’s 2,434.
Nancy Diane Shewmaker easily won the SHCSC board District 1 race with 60.6 percent of the vote. Alice C. Timberlake, Shewmaker’s opponent, received 2,166 votes to Shewmaker’s 3,350.
“I think that getting out and going to the different functions meeting people helped me, and the fact that people know I am someone that they can depend upon to be objective and make sound decisions,” Shewmaker said.
The battle for the second of two District 4 seats on the SHCSC Board of Trustees was one of the tightest in Harrison County. Roger Windell led the way with 3,371 votes or 33.7 percent of the vote. Michael McGraw squeaked by Karen Lopp, 2,889 votes to 2,875. McGraw and Lopp were both incumbents.
Windell said his background and experience probably helped him win the race. He served on the board from 1977 to 1985.
“I do take the job very seriously, and research issues and vote for the best of all the students in the corporation and to the community,” McGraw said. He added, “We have a lot of tough issues before us in the next few years.”
In Crawford: Montgomery edges Owen for prosecutor
Throwing his fist into the air as his fellow Democrats shouted with joy and gave him plenty of hugs, Jim Montgomery celebrated an extremely close victory against incumbent Republican Prosecutor Steve Owen, 1,870 votes to 1,823 votes.
For most of the night, the two men stayed within about 100 votes of each other, as precinct totals were added to the tally board in the Crawford County Court House in English.
Montgomery, who admitted to not getting much sleep the past couple of nights because of nerves, said he expected a tight race, but not one this close. Still, he said he understood the difficult choice that faced voters.
“There were two well-qualified attorneys running for the office,” Montgomery said, echoing Owen’s comments last spring when previewing his match-up with Montgomery.
Montgomery said he believes his record in the community was the difference-maker.
“I would have to believe the community recognized my commitment to this county,” he said.
Within a minute or two of Montgomery being announced the winner, Owen shook Montgomery’s hand, offering congratulations and thanking him for a good race.
Montgomery said he will serve as full-time prosecutor, and will shortly cut his ties to his private practice in Corydon, as well as his duties as a public defender in Harrison County. He said he hasn’t decided on who will serve as his deputy prosecutor.
Richard Scott wins re-election
Crawford County Sheriff Richard Scott scored an overwhelming victory over Republican challenger Curtis (Al) Tucker to win another four-year term.
Scott, of English, carried all 17 county voting precincts on his way to registering 2,702 votes to Tucker’s 1,123. Scott garnered more than 70.5 percent of the vote total to 29.3 percent by Tucker, a county commissioner from Sulphur.
Scott said he was pleased with voter turnout and it showed at the polls.
“I felt good to see it was consistent throughout the county,” he said.
Scott added that he felt voters were satisfied with his first term and wanted to support him in the future.
“It showed confidence the voters had in me over the last four years,” he said. “They’ve critiqued my four years now and decided they want me back.”