GOP prevails in huge voter turnout
Voter turnout in Harrison County soared with the rest of the nation as an extraordinary 17,524 people, approximately 61 percent of registered voters, went to the polls yesterday.
An also extraordinary 3,412 Republican straight-party tickets were cast, resulting in a net gain of nearly 950 votes for the party through straight tickets alone.
‘It’s the first time in history that I know of that there have been more Republican straight ballots cast than Democrats. When I go to the Republican State Convention next week, I can say we have a new Republican county,’ said Harrison County Republican Party Chair Larry Shickles.
‘This resembles more 1994 when it was a Republican sweep, not only in Indiana but all across the country,’ said Democrat State Rep. Paul Robertson of Depauw, who captured his 14th-straight term despite the record Republican showing.
Robertson fell to a 380-vote disadvantage in the portions of Floyd and Clark counties that he represents, but a 57 to 43 percent victory in Harrison County over opponent Brian C. Thomas tipped the scales.
‘(President) Bush got 63 percent in this county. To be honest, when Kerry got the nomination, I thought George W. Bush might get 70 percent,’ Robertson said.
Republican Mitch Daniels solidly beat Democrat Gov. Joe Kernan in Harrison County by 9,242 votes to 7,809, or 8.3 percent.
‘The Daniels’ campaign in Indiana probably was run flawlessly. It was hard work, but in the final analysis one has to remember, this is a Republican state … ,’ Robertson said.
After reflecting on the Republicans’ powerful straight-party voting, he added, ‘You would surmise that this is not as Democratic a county as many people think it is.’
Harrison County Circuit Court Clerk Carole Gaither didn’t escape the Republican surge, losing by 4.5 percent (less than 800 votes) to Sherry Brown, but the incumbent Democrat still had a job to do.
Gaither found herself presiding over what may have been the largest election in Harrison County history.
In the 2002 general election, 37 percent of the county’s registered voters cast their ballots. Only 6,578 of Harrison County’s 28,031 registered voters (about 23.5 percent) came out for this year’s primary election.
Nonetheless, Gaither had big expectations for yesterday’s turnout.
‘We had 2,010 new registers since January. We had a net increase, I am sure,’ Gaither said.
As lines grew at various voting precincts, Gaither ordered 1,000 additional ballots be printed, but only a few of those were used.
Only one precinct was unaccounted for by 9 p.m.
‘I think we’ve done mighty, mighty well,’ Gaither said, as she waited for the final ballots to come in.
Shickles said the straight-party tickets were a huge factor in the clerk’s race and others. Both he and Gaither said the large number of Republican tickets reflected interest in the presidential race.
‘I think you see the president’s theme running through many of the races,’ Shickles said.
He cited Rhonda Rhoads, the top vote-getter in the Harrison County Council race. Though she did not always have the most popular opinion, he said, she did what she said she was going to do.
‘All of our candidates worked very hard. We had an army of volunteers. Over 150 volunteers,’ Shickles said.
The only contested, non-political race in the county was for a seat on the South Harrison Community School Corp. School Board of Trustees. That race was dominated by retired sixth-grade science teacher Larry Hauswald of Corydon.
Despite an invisible campaign, Hauswald beat incumbent Sue Haake with 4,006 votes to her 1,876, a 30.5 percent advantage. Thomas Goller came in third with 15.7 percent of the vote.