GOP ‘tsunami’ hits county
A wave of Republicans claimed victory in yesterday’s General Election. One long-time Democrat politician called it a tsunami as many Democrats, including several incumbents, lost their bid for office.
In Harrison County, with about 52 percent of registered voters going to the polls, there were 2,370 straight Republican tickets, 1,601 straight Democrat ones, and another 148 were straight Libertarian. In all, 15,137 ballots were cast.
In arguably the most anticipated race of the General Election, Meade County Sheriff’s Department Det. Rod Seelye, a Republican, defeated Democrat Gary Gilley, a deputy with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department, by more than 2,300 votes.
Seelye was like a rock star after Republican Party chair Scott Fluhr read the results with 100 percent of the county’s 36 precincts reporting. He was surrounded by friends and well-wishers who offered hugs and handshakes as he made his way through the third floor of the Harrison County Court House. By the time Seelye reached the doorway a few minutes later, his opponent had shown up. They hugged and shook hands before chatting.
‘I told him he ran a good race and I told him it was just a bad time (for Democrats),’ Seelye said of the discussion. ‘I think the reason we won was that we had a clear message from the outset. We weren’t promising perfection, but honesty and a clear game-plan for change.’
Of the 15,137 votes cast in the election, 14,988 ‘ or 99 percent ‘ of the ballots included a vote for sheriff. Of those, 8,664 gave Seelye the nod.
‘That was just an unbelievable night. I think the voters spoke loudly tonight, and not just in my race,’ Seelye said.
Seelye, who will earn a salary of $80,000 next year as approved by the Harrison County Council, will name Wayne Kessinger, formerly of Louisville Metro Police, as his chief deputy.
The incoming sheriff said he plans to aggressively work on getting the Harrison County Jail staff under new management and work on properly training the corrections officers.
‘I think my biggest problem is getting that jail lined out. A huge part of that is management and then training. We’ve got to get those guys trained up,’ Seelye said. ‘That’s where a lot of the legal problems out there come from is poor management.’
Seelye said officers within the sheriff’s department who sided with Gilley won’t be judged by their political affiliation, but by their merit and job performance.
‘Under the former administration, if you were looked at as a political threat of some kind, you were forced out,’ Seelye said. ‘That’s not going to happen any longer. We are going to have a professionally run department, and political beliefs have no business in my leadership.’
Seelye and two other Republican candidates, Otto Schalk and John Evans, were supported by a political action committee, Justice for All of Harrison County, created by attorneys Maryland Austin, Chris Byrd and Marian Pearcy, which proved to be successful.
Schalk defeated Dennis Byrd, who has been the prosecuting attorney the past eight years, and Evans defeated Ron Simpson, the former prosecutor, for the office of circuit court judge being vacated by H. Lloyd (Tad) Whitis.
At the age of 25, Schalk is reportedly the youngest person to be elected prosecutor in Indiana. He received 7,596 votes; Byrd had 7,154.
The Evansville native credited his victory to running a hard campaign, tremendous support and frustrated voters, ‘not just locally, but nationally.’ He also said he has a lot of respect for Byrd, who ‘ran a very good race.’
He said that he and Seelye are ready to ‘go head to head’ against the methamphetamine problem in the county, and he plans to implement a peer jury program.
Schalk, who won’t be 26 until Jan. 15, is looking forward to spending time with his wife, Allison. They were married March 20 and have been campaigning since the day they returned from their honeymoon.
Evans, who has served the past eight years as a public defender in Harrison Circuit Court, received 52 percent of the votes (7,677) to Simpson’s 48 percent (7,033).
‘Nobody does anything like this by themselves,’ said Evans, adding that this campaign season was unlike any he could recall.
He said he knocked on a lot of doors and gave people the opportunity to ask him questions, so they would know ‘who I was and what I stood for.’
Evans also reflected on the loss this year of two men who were strong supporters of their respective parties: Democrat William T. (Bill) Nichols and Republican Thomas O. Bube.
‘Their absence was missed,’ Evans said.