GOP continues strong run in Harrison
Harrison County continued to favor Republicans, with all GOP candidates on the General Election ballot easily defeating their opponents.
Scott Fluhr, chairman of the Harrison County Republican Party, said he was very impressed with the overall results for the GOP this year and seemed elated about the voter turnout across the county.
“I have been doing this for 12 years, and there hasn’t been a year this good for our party before,” he said. “We had record turnout in Harrison County, with some people standing in line for two to four hours to vote early. Out of around 29,000 registered voters in the county, about 20,000 voted this year, which is incredible. You have to look at that data and say people must really like the way their elected officials are running this community. The community saw fit to give a 2-1 margin for the Republicans on almost every race … ”
Voter turnout in Harrison County reached 69%, with 29% of the 29,658 registered voters casting their ballots prior to yesterday (Tuesday), either by absentee or early in-person voting. The total number of ballots cast was 20,365 with another 71 labeled as provisional. Those whose ballots were deemed provisional have 10 days to provide needed documentation to have their vote counted.
Sherry Brown was the top vote-getter locally. She received 15,092 votes to retain her position as county clerk; her challenger, Nathaniel Adams, who was running for office for the first time, had 4,593 votes.
“I was surprised by the large margin,” Brown said, crediting her victory to “treating everybody who comes into my office how I would want to be treated.”
Debbie Dennison, who was elected to a second term as county recorder, echoed Brown’s sentiments.
“The first campaign is tough,” she said, adding that experience helps the next go-round. “People come in and they know you.”
Dennison received 14,596 votes, while her challenger, Paisley Rew, another political newcomer, garnered 4,774 votes.
Also elected to another term was Charlie Crawford, the District 1 county commissioner. He had 13,230 votes, while his challenger, James Goldman, who formerly held that seat, received 6,546 votes.
Crawford said he and Goldman talked prior to the election and agreed there would be no mud slinging.
“It’s nice to have an opponent like that,” Crawford said, adding that there were a couple of times Goldman could have called him out.
Crawford said he’s looking forward to another four years in office.
“When I won four years ago, I had some plans,” he said. “Not all of them are done yet, such as high-speed internet and (revamping) animal control.”
The District 2 seat will have a new commissioner come Jan. 1, as Republican Kenny Saulman opted not to seek another term. His successor will be Nelson Stepro, who ran for office for the first time.
“I’m eager to start making a difference,” said Stepro, who had 13,845 votes. “I’ve been to almost all of the (county) council and most of the commissioners’ meetings” this year.
Stepro’s challenger, Richard Gettelfinger, received 6,006 votes for his first time on the ballot.
Both Jennie Capelle and Donnie Hussung were re-elected for another term on the county council, and Richard Gerdon, running this time as a Republican, having previously served on the county council as a Democrat, was elected after defeating Gary Byrne in the Primary Election.
Capelle received 11,290 votes, while Gerdon received 11,146 votes, and Hussung received 10,491. The three defeated the Democrat candidates by a large margin, with Graylin Porter receiving the most votes for her party at 4,477, followed by Rikki Megnin with 4,091 votes and John Resner with 3,711 votes.
Gerdon said that, due to the pandemic, it was much more difficult to run for office this year, as it didn’t feel right going door to door or doing his normal routine of campaigning.
“COVID made this entire process different,” he said. “It was tough to get out there and get to know the people who may not have known me during my prior terms of office.”
However, Gerdon said he is ready to hit the ground running once this term starts, and one of his main concerns he hopes to tackle is addressing the county’s dependency on riverboat revenue.
“My biggest hope for this term is to see our county switch over to a more conservative financial mode when it comes to riverboat revenue,” Gerdon said. “We need to become strong without that cushion of funds, which may mean we need to cut spending in some places, but we need to get provisions in place to become financially stable without it.”
Hussung said his hope for this upcoming term is to find a better way to communicate with the Harrison County commissioners, and, hopefully, they will be able to all find a balance of give and take that everyone can accept.
“There has been a huge divide between the commissioners and the council for some time, so this term I really want to focus on bridging that divide and better communicate between all of us,” he said.
Capelle said she feels she has gotten a stable footing underneath her for this term and is ready to use that stability to hone on what she is passionate about.
“I think I learned a lot in my recent term and am so excited to be re-elected this year,” she said. “I am looking forward to working with and for organizations that I feel strongly about. I am very passionate about the Harrison County LifeLong Learning center, education initiatives happening here, as well as high-speed internet accessibility for our county, so I am hoping to focus those passions to make changes in our community.”
Former Harrison County auditor Karen Engleman, who has served as State Representative for District 70 since 2016, won her home county over challenger Kent Yeager, who makes his home near Mauckport, 13,587 to 5,373. However, she was waiting results from Floyd and Clark counties before commenting on the outcome.
The lone contested school board race in Harrison County was for the Blue River Township seat on the North Harrison Community School Corp. board. Gregg Oppel, who currently holds that seat, decided not to seek re-election.
Two North Harrison High School graduates, Jordan Black and Eric Stroud, threw their hats in the race, with Stroud getting the nod, 3,313 votes to Black’s 2,101 votes.
“I think I brought a good positive message to the community,” said Stroud. “We need accountability and strong leadership to navigate through these troubled times. I look forward to working with fellow board members to improve policies and better our school system.”
Looking at state and federal races, Harrison Countians also supported Republican candidates.
They favored sending Eric Holcomb back for another term as governor. He had 14,060 votes, while Democrat Woodrow (Woody) Myers received 4,508 votes and Libertarian Donald G. Rainwater II had 1,599 votes.
Holcomb carried the state over his opponents.
Todd Rokita garnered 14,215 votes for the Attorney General office compared to his Democrat counterpart Jonathan Weinzapfel’s 5,485.
Rokita also won the state and will succeed Curtis Hill, who has served that office since 2017.
Indiana Ninth District Congressman Trey Hollingsworth won Harrison County with 14,509 votes. Andy Ruff, the Democratic candidate, received 4,872 votes, while Libertarian Tonya L. Millis had 614 votes.
With 61% of the district reporting, Hollingsworth was leading; he had 139,391 votes to Ruff’s 60,799 votes and Millis’ 9,786 votes.
Likely the most-watched race of the night was that of president.
Donald J. Trump led in Harrison County, with 14,542 votes (72%). His main opponent, Democrat Joseph R. Biden, had 5,334 votes (26.4%), while Libertarian Jo Jorgensen received 322 votes (1.59%).
Statewide, the margins were slightly different with Trump at 60.6%, Biden 37.5% and Jorgensen 1.9%.
The electoral votes were not final when the newspaper went to press last night.
Brown, as county clerk, oversaw the election. She credited a bi-partisan team for how smooth the process went.
“We had quite a few no-shows” of scheduled poll workers, she said. “However, people stepped up to fill in the gaps.”
The last of the county’s 39 precincts submitted their ballots at 8:39 p.m.
“It’s so gratifying seeing bipartisan teams fill the room,” Brown said.
Susie Flock Weigle, the Democrat representative on the county election board, also praised those who worked the polls as well as Brown’s staff.