Election 2006 sees county voters moving to both sides of the ballot for candidates

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Switzerland County voters joined the rest of the country in going to the polls on Tuesday for the mid-term, general elections, and with contested races at the national, state, and local levels, voters here moved between the Democratic and Republican tickets.

The county saw a voter turnout of 41-percent, with a total of 2,792 votes cast in the county’s 12 precincts. But that voter turnout also varied around the county, with 34.48 percent of eligible voters going to the polls in Pleasant I precinct; while 50 percent of voters cast their ballots in Craig II precinct.

Other turnouts included: 36.58 percent in Cotton I; 44.82 percent in Cotton II; Craig I had 44.28 percent; Jefferson I had 38.94 percent; Jefferson II had 41.92 percent; Jefferson III had 43.65 percent; Pleasant II had 44.90 percent; Posey I had 36.13 percent; Posey II had 37.62 percent; and York had 46 percent.

Voter turnout around the county was steady throughout the day; and Switzerland County Election Board members Ginger Peters, Walter Cotton, and Tim Swango reported very few problems during the day with the election equipment.

One problem arose at the Switzerland County 4-H Fairgrounds when the voting machine that balloters inserted their completed voting sheets into lost its power supply and did not have a battery backup available.

Tim Swango said that once the power was restored to the machine, it had to reset itself, causing a delay in voters putting their ballots in the computer. Once the machine was back up to power, ballots were put in and the rest of the day ran smoothly.

County voters seemed to respond to the wide array of contested races here in Switzerland County, electing both Democrats and Republicans; as well as two new members of the school board.

This was the first time that the school board races were held as part of the November election. In past years those seats have been up for election in the May primaries, with the winners beginning four year terms in July.

Now, Tuesday winners Virgil McKay and Vern Waltz will take office in January.

Nationally, Tuesday was a day for the Democrats, as the party took control of the House of Representatives, and – as of today’s edition – may also find itself in control of the Senate as well. Senate races in Virginia and Missouri are simply too close to call, and if the Democrats win both of those races, the party will control both houses of Congress for the next two years.

Here in local races, Democrats continue to control the courthouse, with four offices up for election on Tuesday – and all four being unopposed contests for the Democrats.

Nathan Hughes becomes the first county sheriff in more than 20 years to win reelection, as the popular Democrat was unopposed in Tuesday’s balloting. Garry Forwood was the last sheriff to win two terms in the 1980s; but resigned before he finished his second term.

J.D. Leap completed that term and won election to a term of his own, but was defeated by Republican Lonnie Harris, who chose not to seek a second term. John Johnson then served as sheriff, but was defeated for reelection by Wayne Browning, who also chose not to seek a second term four years ago – when Nathan Hughes was elected to his first term.

Clerk of the Circuit Court Ginger Peters, whose staff did a tremendous job in getting the vote tallies out to the public on Tuesday night, was also reelected; as was longtime County Assessor Joan Armstrong, who was reelected without opposition.

The County Auditor’s office will change parties, as current deputy auditor Rachel Bladen, a Democrat, was elected without opposition. She will assume the auditor’s duties from current Republican office holder Janice Ramsey, who did not seek reelection.

One of the county’s three commissioner seats was up for election on Tuesday, with Republican Kenton C. “Casey” Banta winning a third term over Democratic challenger Evelina Brown. It is believed that this is the first time in county history that a commissioner has successfully won a third term.

There were four seats on the Switzerland County Council up for election on Tuesday; and two of those – Democrat Mike Jones in District Two and Democrat Don Covington in District Four – being unopposed.

In District One, Democrat Tom Conroy defeated Republican Eric Cole to take over for retiring office holder Kenny Griffin; and in District Three, Republican Terry Hall won reelection over Democrat George Adams.

All of the Trustee offices were up for election on Tuesday, and Democrats Anthony Jackson in Craig Township and Barbara Bowling in Cotton Township were reelected without opposition.

In Jefferson Township, Republican Lowell Wayne Sullivan defeated Democrat Ginny Leap; in Posey Township Republican incumbent Robert Jackman defeated Democrat Chris See; and in York Township Democrat Kip Hatton defeated Republican Beverly Stoops.

One interesting race was in Pleasant Township, where Republican Andy Jessup was elected as trustee in an unopposed race; but will resign the office immediately after winning it because he will be moving out of the area with his job.

The Republican party will fill the vacated position with a caucus.

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Switzerland County was also involved in two regional races, as it shares a Circuit Court Judge and a Prosecuting Attorney with Jefferson County.

In the May primary, Democrat prosecuting attorney candidate Chad Lewis won his party’s nomination because of his winning in Switzerland County by enough votes to overcome falling short in Jefferson County – and that happened again on Tuesday night with the Judge’s race.

Democrat incumbent Ted Todd defeated Republican challenger Stephen Tesmer in a close race – primarily because he won here in Switzerland County. Judge Todd’s 700-vote margin here erased an 80-vote loss in Jefferson County, putting the Democrat back in office for another term.

Chad Lewis, who benefited from Switzerland County support in the primary; was unopposed for election, and will begin serving his term on January 1st.

Seats were also contested for the Indiana House and Indiana Senate, with Democrat Bob Bischoff winning reelection to the 68th House District over Republican Bill Ullmer; and Democrat Jim Lewis will serve another term as the State Senator in District 45, as he defeated Republican Floyd Coates.

In races of interest that didn’t specifically affect Switzerland County, Republican State Senator Johnny Nugent easily won reelection over Democratic challenger Lane Siekman in District 43, which covers Ohio and Dearborn counties among others.

In races for the Indiana House, Democrat David Cheatham, who formerly held the office and represented parts of Switzerland County before redistricting, defeated Republican incumbent Billy Bright in District 69; and former Switzerland County representative Cleo Duncan, a Republican, won reelection in District 67.

In statewide races, Democratic candidates for Secretary of State; Auditor of State; and Treasurer of State all won in Switzerland County – but lost at the state level as the Republicans swept those offices.

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Switzerland County was part of one of the most hotly contested national races, with Republican Ninth District Congressman Mike Sodrel trying to win a second term against Democrat Baron Hill – the congressman that he unseated two years ago.

With high profile candidates from both parties coming to the district to campaign for both candidates, the race took on a national identity; and when all of the votes were counted on Tuesday night, Baron Hill won back his seat – both here in Switzerland County and in the Ninth District.

Longtime Indiana Senator Richard Lugar won a sixth term in the U.S. Senate – and is so popular in the state that Indiana Democrats did not even bother to field a candidate against the Republican office holder.