Benjamin defeats Andrews for GOP circuit judge

A local child support commissioner who has worked in Columbus for eight years has defeated a native Bartholomew County attorney to earn the Republican nomination to become the next Bartholomew County Circuit Court judge.

In a record turnout election that drew 22,444 Bartholomew County voters, Kelly Benjamin claimed victory against Scott Andrews in the Republican race for Circuit Court judge Tuesday by securing more than half of all votes — 54.23 percent for Benjamin, compared to 45.77 percent for Andrews.

Andrews and Benjamin competed to become the Republican nominee to replace Judge Stephen Heimann, a Democrat who at year end will retire at the end of his term.

Benjamin, a former Columbus city attorney, currently works as an appointed commissioner of the Bartholomew County child support court and as attorney for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Board.

Andrews is the owner and founder of Andrews Law Office, which opened in Columbus in January.

Surrounded by her husband, Scott, her three children, Kane, Kota and Keagan, and numerous campaign supporters who attended the Republican Party watch party Tuesday night at the Clarion Hotel, Benjamin watched the primary results roll in with tears in her eyes as she slowly realized that she would be the victor in the race for Circuit Court judge.

Benjamin said she was excited, humbled and overwhelmed by her victory, especially considering she was not completely confident that she would win going into Tuesday’s primary.

“You never know,” she said. “There are all kinds of factors that play into these elections.”

Benjamin currently is uncontested in the November general election, as no Democratic candidates filed to run for Circuit Court judge in Tuesday’s primary.

However, if a Democrat or Independent chooses to add themselves to the ballot for the general election, Benjamin said she will need to re-evaluate her campaign strategy. Her platform for the primary race focused on her 24 years of legal experience and her involvement in the Bartholomew County community.

If she wins in November, Benjamin said her first course of action will be to meet with the existing Bartholomew County judges to acclimate herself to her new position and begin the transition into her seat on the bench.

Although he was not able to defeat his opponent, Andrews said he is proud of his campaign and has no regrets about running for judge.

“I love this community, and I decided to step out and try to support it,” he said. “I’m still going to continue to be involved.”

If he were to run again, Andrews said the biggest campaign change he would make would be to enter the race earlier. Benjamin announced that she was interested in the seat on the Circuit Court bench in July 2015, while Andrews announced his interest in November.

Andrews said he will support Benjamin’s candidacy in the general election in November.

Circuit Court judge

Circuit Court judge

Republican

Scott Andrews;6,903

Kelly S. Benjamin;8,180

Job description

The Bartholomew County Circuit Court judge has unlimited trial jurisdiction, meaning the judge can hear any type of case brought to the bench, except in cases when another court also has jurisdiction over a case. The salary for the Bartholomew County Circuit Court judge is set at $136,313.06.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.