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Thoughts on the 2008 primary election

By Scott Tibbs, May 7, 2008

With the 2008 primary over, the political aftermath is going to be interesting to watch. Some results were surprising, while others were not. It is going to be interesting to see how this plays out going into the November elections.

The biggest news for Monroe County is that Sandy Newmann has been fired from her job as Monroe County Auditor. Newmann's own party rejected her for a candidate who may not even be legally allowed to run for office. Amy Gerstman's margin of 11,722 votes to 7,762 votes is an emphatic rejection of Newmann's tenure as Auditor, a tenure that saw Newmann hire her daughter to manage the county payroll. It has been payroll, interestingly enough, where Newmann has had the most problems in her office. Gerstman's opponent in November is Vivien Bridges, who ran payroll for county government for 25 years.

The three races for County Commissioner could have some interesting repercussions, Pat Jeffries won, but 28% of the vote went to a candidate who has dropped out of the race, though he did it too late to be taken off the ballot. This indicates Jeffries has problems with the Republican base. Jeffries will need to resolve those problems if she hopes to defeat Iris Kiesling, who has defeated three consecutive Republican opponents. It was not a surprise to see "Green" Democrat Mark Stoops defeat Steve Sharp, especially given that "true believers" tend to vote in primaries and they were especially motivated this year with Barack Hussein Obama on the ballot.

It is that trend that makes the rejection of Sophia Travis by her own party so significant. Mrs. Travis challenged incumbent Democrat Iris Kiesling in the primary, hoping to join Lucille Bertuccio as a "Green" Democrat who knocked off a long-time Democrat incumbent in the primary. Kiesling won by a convincing margin of 3,051 votes, with 12,250 votes to 9,199 for Mrs. Travis. While other races in the Democrat Party primary had larger margins of victory, it is significant that Mrs. Travis was the #1 vote-getter for Monroe County Council in both the 2004 Democrat Party primary and the general election later that year.

Mrs. Travis may have been hurt by her husband Greg Travis, who has a history of making strange and extreme statements. Mr. Travis loves to use Deuteronomy 23:1 to ridicule me and claim I am not going to Heaven. (I survived testicular cancer in 1997.) Mr. Travis, becoming increasingly hysterical as the Democrat Party's primary got closer, compared Republicans voting in the Democrat Party's primary to arson, terrorism and attempted murder. (For more, see articles from February 25, March 4, March 7, March 10 and May 6.)

Travis also made the bizarre claim that the 2002 Pedigo Bay fire "appears to have been an accident", but the Herald Times reported earlier this year that Pam Bright of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said that Pedigo Bay was an "incendiary fire." In other words, it was intentionally set. Bright also wrote in an e-mail to me that Pedigo Bay "is an on going investigation involving possible arson". FBI agent Robert Woessner said during the Scott Wells defamation trial that "The case is ongoing."

I was happy to see Andy Dodds and Jeff Huston win the primary election for Monroe County Council at-large. Dodds came close to winning a spot on the County Council in 2004, and was the #1 vote-getter among the three Republicans. I've known Jeff Huston for several years and believe he would be an excellent choice for Monroe County voters this November. With Joyce Poling on the ballot, Republicans will probably win at least one at-large seat in November, increasing GOP representation on a body where Marty Hawk is the lone Republican.

Finally, it is significant that once again a significant portion of the Monroe County vote went to Gretchen Clearwater for the 9th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Clearwater fared well against Baron Hill two years ago, but this time Baron Hill is the incumbent and about 30% of Democrats in Monroe County voted against him. That indicates that Hill also has a problem with his base, but whether that carries over into the general electron remains to be seen. Hill didn't have a problem winning the Democrat vote back in 2006.

The ballot is not yet set in stone. Republicans still need to slate candidates to challenge incumbent Democrat legislators Peggy Welch and Matt Pierce, as well as a candidate to challenge Mark Stoops for County Commissioner. Republicans would have stood little chance against Steve Sharp, but Stoops is beatable. Now that I've been elected as Precinct Committeeman, I will get to vote to choose opponents for Pierce and Stoops, as well as a new Republican Party chairman. Now, the general election begins in earnest.