Scott Tibbs
Published by Hoosier review, 11-07-2002

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Julie Roberts for Mayor!

Republicans win big and get unlikely help from the Greens.

Election Night 2002 was a fantastic night for Monroe County Republicans, who took control of the County Commissioners and the County Council. The GOP also did very well statewide. Specific races are broken down below. (Results are from the Nov. 6th Herald-Times and

Secretary of State: Bloomington Mayor John Fernandez outspent his Republican opponent Todd Rokita by 2 to 1, raising $1 million to Rokita's $500,000. But it wasn't enough to stop a major Republican tide in the Hoosier State, where Republicans made gains in the Indiana House and dominated other statewide offices. In a surprising development, Fernandez lost Monroe County by a slim margin. Rokita won Monroe County despite the fact that both of his opponents (Fernandez and Libertarian candidate Rebecca Sink-Burris) were on their home turf. Bloomington's environmentalists, who have harshly criticized his record as Mayor, may have hurt Fernandez. In the week before the election, a post to the Sierra Club's Hoosier Topics electronic mail list urged environmentalists to vote against Fernandez due to his support of Interstate 69.

Congressional races: John Hostettler continues to make the "Bloody Eighth" Congressional District less "bloody" with a victory over Democrat Brian Hartke and an attack campaign waged by the Evansville Courier & Press. In the neighboring 9th District, Mike Sodrel suffered a disappointing loss to incumbent Democrat Baron Hill. Since President Bush easily topped Al Gore by 20 percentage points in the 9th District two years ago, Hill is viewed as vulnerable with his Left-leaning votes on abortion, gun control, taxes and flag burning. Hopefully in 2004 the national Republicans will put some effort into gaining this seat for the GOP. Finally, Republicans Mike Pence, Mark Souder, Dan Burton and Steve Buyer won landslide victories. A majority voters in north-central Indiana voted for Chris Chocola and sent Jill Long Thompson the same message northeast Indiana voters sent her in 1994: "We don't want you in Congress."

State Representative District 60: As expected, incumbent Democrat Peggy Welch won easily over her challengers, Republican David Sabbagh and Libertarian Jim Billingsley. Welch won with 59% of the vote while 37% of voters chose Sabbagh and Billinglsey finished with less than 5%. Sabbagh, a member of the Bloomington City Council, may have been too liberal to pose a serious threat to Welch, who pulled significant numbers of Republican votes for the third election in a row. Despite his qualifications, Billinglsey, the former president of the Monroe County Taxpayers Association, was marginalized by running as a Libertarian, as many voters don't consider that party to be a serious third option.

State Representative District 61: Democrat Matt Pierce, a former Bloomington City Council member, ran over his Libertarian opponent, Clark Brittain. Pierce netted 75% of the vote to Brittain's 25% in a district drawn to maximize Democrat votes. Brittain made a strategic error in emphasizing loosening laws against marijuana, as his laser-like focus on marijuana made many Republicans uncomfortable in a race with no Republican candidate. While Brittain had virtually no chance of defeating Pierce, a more broad-based campaign putting more emphasis on traditional Libertarian/Republican issues like Second Amendment rights, lower taxes, limiting state spending and cleaning up the Build Indiana Fund scandal would likely have made Pierce's margin of victory a bit smaller.

Monroe County Commissioner: Herb Kilmer upset incumbent Democrat Brian O'Neill by nearly 3,000 votes, putting the Republicans back in control of the County's legislative body. O'Neill, whose ideas and policies fall in line with the "Green Democrats" who ran for County Council, turned off voters by attempting to get the State House to pass legislation allowing counties to raise income taxes. O'Neill also supported restrictive new zoning proposals, including unconstitutional limits on candidate yard signs and the "minimum lot requirement", both of which were dropped in the face of intense public opposition.

Monroe County Council, District 1: "Green Democrat" Lucille Bertuccio shocked the county by knocking off incumbent moderate Democrat David Hamilton in the May primary, and quickly became the Republicans' biggest target for her views and activism. Bertuccio was previously known for rushing the County Council bench after the Council approved tax-free bonds for a Westside apartment complex bitterly opposed by local environmentalists, and for being arrested at the tree-sit opposing the development. Outgoing Democratic Council members Joni Reagan and Hamilton endorsed Republican Sue West, who also was the recipient of financial support from people who had previously supported Democrats, according to the Herald-Times. West's moderate vision prevailed over the activist Bertuccio with District 1 voters.

Monroe County Council, District 2: Republican Trent Jones surprised political observers by defeating former environmental lobbyist Bill Hayden, 45% to 40%. Dissention in the environmentalist ranks secured a Council seat for Jones when Green Party candidate Julie Roberts took 15% of the vote. Those votes would almost certainly have gone to Hayden. Now, as an incumbent, Jones will enjoy more name identification and will be more formidable in 2006. Jones, who was also endorsed by Joni Reagan, worked hard during the campaign, going door-to-door and meeting voters while expressing concern about job loss in Monroe County and pledging to do his part to make the community more business-friendly.

Monroe County Council, District 3: In a heavily Republican District, incumbent Marty Hawk crushed her Democratic challenger, Robert Lentz. Hawk has been an outspoken advocate of responsible fiscal policy, and has been a frequent critic of soon-to-be former Commissioner O'Neill.

Monroe County Council, District 4: Democrat Mark Stoops retained his seat, but he and fellow "Green Democrat" Scott Wells now face a 5-2 deficit. In this district gerrymandered to be extremely Democratic, Stoops edged Dexter Luck by only 360 votes, 2,441 to 2,081. This election should send a message to Stoops and the rest of the "Green Democrats" that their views aren't in line with Monroe County voters.