Seven candidates waged a battle Tuesday for three open positions on the Bartholomew County Council.
But when all the votes were counted, the Republicans — two incumbents and one newcomer — came out on top and kept total control of the seven-member council.
Since 1998, the Republicans have swept nearly every countywide elected office — except for that of Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann, the Democrat who did not seek re-election and will retire from the bench at year’s end after serving 25 years.
When all votes were reported, 33,196 were cast in Tuesday’s general election at 18 vote centers or in advance at the Bartholomew County Courthouse — more than ever. With 55,491 registered voters, that made the turnout 59.8 percent.
In comparison, 29,755 Bartholomew County voters cast ballots (57.4 percent turnout) in the November 2012 general election. That was down from the record 31,570 votes cast (58.8 percent turnout) in the 2008 general election.
With 36 consecutive years on the county council, Republican Evelyn Pence, 77, earned her 10th term. Pence, who has served in the same position longer than any other public servant in Bartholomew County, earned 14,562 votes (18.9 percent).
Although first elected in 1980, Pence said she actually was appointed in the late 1960s to fill out another council member’s term.
Taking the seat currently held by Jim Reed, who lost in the Republican primary, will be political newcomer and former sheriff’s deputy, Matt Miller, 30, owner of Raft to Rafters Pool & Spa. He garnered 15,787 votes (20.5 percent).
While he stated during the campaign that he is against raising taxes, Miller said he will be open to all options regarding revenue.
“I’m not going to go in on Day One and have a bias,” Miller said Tuesday. “I will never say I will never raise taxes. But I will never do it as my first choice. We need to find ways to make the dollar go further first.”
After serving four terms on the Flat Rock-Hawcreek school board, Republican farmer Bill Lentz, 58, won his third term on the council by becoming the top vote earner in the seven-candidate field with 16,725 votes (21.7 percent).
When his victory became apparent, Lentz spoke highly of the three Democrats and one Libertarian who ran against the Republican field.
“If they were on top and I wasn’t, it would still be a good day because they are really good people,” Lentz said. “I’m just kind of humbled that the people still have confidence in me.”
One of the competitors, Democrat Pam Clark, 64, is a consultant and training professional. Clark, who received 9,227 votes (12 percent), was the former director of both the Bartholomew County Youth Services Center and the Foundation for Youth in Columbus. It was her first run for public office.
Democrat Lynne Fleming, 63, is a retired teacher and former president of the Columbus Educator’s Association. In her first run for public office, Fleming received 8,895 votes (11.5 percent).
Democrat Diane Hawes, 57, is an administrative assistant at Turning Point Domestic Violence Services. This was also her first attempt at public office, although her husband Craig is a former Columbus city councilman.
Hawes, who received 7,751 votes (10 percent), was added to the ballot after the May primary when Democrat Gabrielle Cheek pulled out of the race too late to be taken off the ballot.
Libertarian Joshua Brown, 27, who garnered 4,132 votes (5.4 percent), is a mechanical engineer who had not sought or held public office before this year.
Bartholomew County Council at-large
William F. Lentz (R);16,725
Matt Miller (R);15,787
Evelyn S. Pence (R);14,562
Pam Clark (D);9,227
Lynne L. Fleming (D);8,895
Diane Hawes (D);7,751
Josh Brown (L);4,132