City council has new look

Democrats will claim two of the seven seats on the Columbus City Council next year.

Elaine Wagner defeated incumbent Republican Ryan Brand in the District 2 race Tuesday, while her fellow Democrat, Tom Dell, earned one of the two at-large seats.

Laurie Booher won the second at-large council seat, defeating fellow Republican and incumbent Kenny Whipker. However, Republican incumbent Dascal Bunch won the District 1 race with a decisive victory over Democratic challenger Christopher Rutan.

Describing Dell and Wagner as quality people with good judgment, Columbus Mayor-elect Jim Lienhoop said he’s not worried about having two Democrats on the council.

“There are a lot of issues we get into at City Hall that don’t have much to do with party politics,” Lienhoop said. “At the municipal level, we’re really picking up garbage and pushing snow.”

Wagner, obviously stunned by her win, told her fellow Democrats on Tuesday night she had no expectation of winning and had not prepared an acceptance speech.

This endeared her even more to her supporters, who clamored for photos, hugs and a word of congratulation as she circled the room and thanked those who had helped her in the campaign.

Wagner promised to immerse herself in learning more about Columbus and District 2.

While Brand could not be reached after the election results came in, he said earlier in the day that there’s nothing he would have done differently in his campaign.

“I’ve put in a lot of work for four years, and I hope my track record speaks for itself,” Brand said a few hours before the polls closed Tuesday.

Brand also said that if you want to keep both the Republican and Democratic parties sharp, there needs to be options on the ballot from both parties.

“Not just a name to fill a slot on the ballot,” Brand said. “There must be qualified candidates with a sincere desire to serve.”

Dell remained circumspect throughout the night as election results came in, saying only “we’ll see,” as totals showed him leading the council at-large race throughout the night.

Dell said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to serve. His goal is to lead Columbus forward in a positive, inclusive and fair way, he said.

As Whipker conceded defeat, the former Bartholomew County Sheriff said Booher did all the right things in her campaign and worked very hard, so she deserves the victory.

In terms of his loss, Whipker said, “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

“There’s a different plan in place, so I’ll go with whatever that plan is at this point in time,” he said.

Booher gave much of the credit for her victory to about 25 campaign volunteers.

“I’m looking forward to a new administration to get everyone together, in order to get the city back on track,” Booher said. “This will show the younger group why it’s important to vote.”

Speaking to his fellow Republicans at the Clarion Hotel, Bunch kept most of his victory on Lienhoop, who ran unopposed and will succeed current Mayor Kristen Brown on Jan. 1. But while ending his thank-yous to his supporters and family, Bunch did get laughs when he brought up Brown’s low-key endorsement of Rutan’s candidacy late last week.

“I want to thank the current mayor we have, because I think she helped me out by endorsing my opponent,” Bunch said. “I’m not going to say I couldn’t have done it without her, but I want to thank her very much just the same.”

Rutan said being the only Democrat on the ballot that didn’t win was kind of surprising, but he is thinking of other ideas for the future. He said he plans to continue his work in the Ninth Street neighborhood group, but politically will step back and see what he might want to pursue.

“If you’ve seen my name before, you will see it again,” Rutan told the Democrats.

The bickering that has taken place between Brown and the all-Republican city council during the last four years may have had an impact on Tuesday’s results, according to Bartholomew County Republican chairwoman Barb Hackman.

“For some people, it just turns them off, and turns them away from politics in general,” Hackman said. “They hate the fighting and bickering.”

However, Hackman said she doesn’t see anything from Tuesday’s results that will foreshadow what will happen during next year’s presidential election.

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.