Primary election day in Delaware County IN; Few contests, little interest

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) -  Whether disenchanted by Capital Hill, or disillusioned by personal grudges locally, voters are showing little interest in Tuesday's primary election.

Early voting in Delaware County on Monday reflected only 1,700 ballots cast out of more than 88,800 registered. Polls in Delaware County and elsewhere in Indiana and the nation are open Tuesday 6 a.m.-6p.m.

And only a handful of offices, like Congress, sheriff, recorder, assessor and county council actually have contests.

Gary Crawley, political science professor at Ball State University, has studied election trends for years and sees continuing decline in voting and participation.

"The continued deadlock in Congress disenchants many voters," said Crawley.

The latest was over raising the minimum wage, and many remember how House Republicans shutdown the federal government last last year.

Republican Congressman Luke Messer was part of that shutdown and also continues to call for federal spending reductions..He easily won election two years ago with more than 60 percent of the vote in an eastern Indiana congressional district that runs from Muncie to the Ohio River.

Democratic Party favorite Lane Siekman of Rising Sun, has been critical of Messer's conservative positions, but first must win the nomination also sought by Susan Heitzman of North Vernon and Corinne Westerfield of Connersville.

Heitzman has run a grassroots campaign with little money or organization, while Siekman, an attorney, depends on local party organizations to get the vote out for him. He raised less than $3,000 sofar, according to federal campaign finance reports while has nearly $700,000 on hand from big political action committees representing banks, insurance, health care and conservative interests like the Right to Life and National Rifle Association.

The personal nature of Delaware County politics can be found in the Republican Party contest for county assessor.

Incumbent Assessor James Carmichael has been under attack by some property owners and supporters of challenger Steve Fields, a veteran public servant, over his handling of assessors where private contracts to assess property grew by hundreds of thousands of dollars with a change order or oversight.

Carmichael is a legacy, succeeding his father, Gary Carmichael as assessor, and insists he has handled his duties according to the law and fair to property owners.

Fields, a former township trustee and Yorktown Council member, said he has not engaged in personal attacks again Carmichael and said he has the level three certification to do the job. Carmichael is grandfathered under a lower certification.

While Delaware County Commissioners found little problem with Carmichael's performance outside of a $168,000 extra for photographing property, the Indiana State Police is investigating the assessment contracts for any fraud or collusion.

The last county officials facing an ISP probe was County Treasurer John Dorer, a Democrat, who was recently charged with making late bank deposits and petty theft. Dorer bonded out of jail and returned to work, awaiting trial. He was in the office Monday accepting tax payments due on May 10.

 Crawley said the conduct of public officials and their escapades also was a reason for voters not to show up to the polls.

One of the biggest offices on the ballot, county sheriff, has seen little campaigning or controversy.

Delaware County Sheriff Michael Scroggins, a Democrat, is challenged by perennial candidate Kenneth Davenport who soon could achieve a Guinness Book of Records for the most times on a ballot.

And Republicans have city police officer Jason Webber and county security officer Vernon Jackson seeking that party's nomination. Neither has mounted much of a campaign.

History shows a county sheriff is seldom defeated for a second term, although midterm elections in Delaware County generally lean Republican.

And Republicans have cast more ballots in recent countywide primaries, given the rise of the Tea Party and other conservative groups.

The Tea Party recently pledged their support to Fields and Ed Connell, who seeks a seat on Delaware County Council. Connell faces Teresa Hensley, supported by main stream Republicans.

Crawley said social and fiscal conservatism was popular in Indiana, given recent elections put the Statehouse in the hands of Republicans who have super majorities in the Indiana House and Senate.

And its extraordinary that there's no primary races for any legislative  seats in eastern Indiana and some incumbents like Sens. Tim Lanane, Senate minority leader from Anderson and Doug Eckerty, a Republican from Yorktown, have no opposition sofar in the fall.

Crawley believed a lack of issues, whether on taxes or other policy, contributed to little interest in 2014 elections.







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