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Incumbents returned to board of commissioners

Both incumbent commissioners, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, won reelection yesterday, almost to the vote.
Republican J.R. Eckart captured more than 52 percent of the vote in his bid for a second four-year term. Democrat Steve Haggard, a former commissioner and councilman, made a solid show in his reelection effort, capturing 47.5 percent of the vote. The two finished with Eckart bringing in 8,775 votes to Haggard’s 7,964.
Two Democrats and a Republican ‘ two incumbents and one new face ‘ won the three at-large seats on the county council.
Republican incumbent Rhonda Rhoads, the only female on the seven-member board, was the top vote-getter again in the council race, capturing a little more than 22 percent of the votes. Democrat incumbent Carl (Buck) Mathes placed second with 21 percent, and Democrat Chris Timberlake won 20 percent of the vote on his first try for public office.
Republican Harold L. Klinstiver, also a newcomer, took fourth place with 18.6 percent of the vote to Democrat incumbent Carl E. Duley’s nearly 18 percent.
The Repub-licans held on to their majority on the board of commissioners and the county council.
Eckart and Goldman both attribute their wins to job performance.
‘I think I try really hard to represent the views of the people in our community, and I think they recognize that,’ Goldman said last night at the courthouse.
‘I think it was more my willingness to work with people, trying to find common ground,’ Goldman said. ‘I think that was more of a vote carrier than any single issue.’
Eckart said he heard a resounding message in yesterday’s election. ‘The message I heard is they are satisfied with the job I am doing and they feel like I’m not partisan.
‘I look at individuals and I look at the issues and try to make decisions based on the facts and the information,’ said Eckart, who has served as chairman of the commissioners for the last two years.’
Haggard, the chairman of the Harrison County Democratic Central Committee and Eckart’s opponent in the Second District commissioner’s race, said he couldn’t explain his loss and others. ‘It had to be all the Republican straight tickets, but then when you look at the situation, they had to hunt and peck to get some of the Democrats in … ‘ he said.
In his race, ‘the people made their mind up and that’s what it was. It’s hard to win a commissioner’s race after you lose one. But I worked hard,’ Haggard said.
Haggard said he sensed a lot of support among the voters, but, ‘I think the only one excited was me.
‘I wish J.R. all the luck in the world. He won it fair and square.’
And that’s apparently how Republican Michael Gregory felt about his race against James Goldman, a Democrat. Gregory shook Goldman’s hand and wished him well.
‘You had me scared, buddy,’ Goldman said to Gregory, who finished less than 700 votes behind.
Four years ago, Rhoads led the ticket in the council race, and she stayed on the top again this year. ‘That tells me that when I made the hard decisions about things, there were people in the county I was representing,’ she said. ‘I’m very gratified with the vote.’
Constituents can look for more of the same in the coming four years, she and incumbent Democrat Mathes said.
Mathes, always a colorful, popular figure around the county with his interest in county government, auctions, tractor pulls and his never-ending work at the county fair, sailed smoothly along in second place last night. But he didn’t attribute the win to name recognition alone.
‘I try to always vote in the county’s best interest, and they voted for the experienced board member. You can expect more of the same. The biggest issue in the county right now is the hospital, and I’ve supported it all along.’
As soon as a new hospital plan is submitted, including the financing options which don’t include property tax dollars, Mathes said he believes the project can get underway. He expects the estimated $36 million to $40 million project will be financed totally with riverboat revenue.
Timberlake, the new ‘kid’ on the block, and a Democrat, said:
‘I’m honored by the support and aim to do the best job I can for the county. It’s a bittersweet night. I had some friends that didn’t make it through, but we’re all very respectful of the will of the people.
‘I’m looking forward to getting to work with the council, confronting the issues that face us and doing what I can to help move the county forward in a positive way.’