Six candidates filed for office in the opening hour of the 2018 primary and general election filing season.
They included a pair of two-term incumbent department heads who are prevented by term limits for seeking a third term in their current roles.
Auditor Barb Hackman filed Wednesday for the county treasurer’s position as a Republican. Treasurer Pia O’Connor filed for the auditor’s job.
A third candidate who filed papers Wednesday faced term limits two years ago.
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Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines was not eligible to seek re-election in 2014, but she is seeking a return to county office this year as county recorder.
Other first-hour filers were county commissioner Carl Lienhoop, seeking his fifth consecutive term; county council member Jorge Morales, seeking his third; and Brenda Mijares, who was appointed 16 months ago to replace former Wayne Township Trustee Clint Madden, and will seek elected office for the first time.
The filing season runs through Feb. 9.
Hackman’s candidacy took some observers by surprise.
Several of her friends and co-workers said they didn’t expect Hackman to put her name on a ballot this year.
Instead, they were expecting her to devote more of her time to her responsibilities as Bartholomew County GOP chairwoman.
Seventy-six federal, state, county, town and township offices will be on the Bartholomew County ballot this year.
Over a four-year cycle, this will be the largest ballot of any election, said County Clerk Jay Phelps, whose office oversees the election.
“I also think there could be more contested races than most people probably think right now,” Phelps said.
In Columbus, midterm elections such as the one this year have traditionally been less interesting than presidential elections, which occur in years divisible by four (2012, 2016, 2020).
Four out of five registered local voters didn’t cast a ballot in the 2014 Bartholomew County primary election.
However, local political decisions impact every Bartholomew County resident on a daily basis, said Phelps, whose position is up for re-election this year.
“If people want to have their voices heard on what impacts them the most, they need to pay attention this year,” Phelps said.
This year’s midterm election has been widely touted as a referendum on which party citizens want to control the U.S. Congress — a choice grounded in their assessments of President Donald Trump.
“Historically, whoever has the White House during the midterm, it’s the opposing party that usually gets the larger turnout,” Phelps said.
The race for U.S. Senator for Indiana has already been described by a number of national media outlets as one of 2018’s key congressional races.
Indiana congressmen Todd Rokita and Luke Messer are among the Republicans expected to engage in a primary challenge to determine who takes on incumbent Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly in November.
Heavy news coverage of that race is likely to substantially increase local voter interest, Phelps said.
Meanwhile, Greg Pence of Columbus, brother of Vice President Mike Pence, announced his intention in October to run for Messer’s seat representing Indiana’s 6th Congressional district, which includes Columbus.
Two other Republicans — Jonathan Lamb of Muncie and Stephen Mackenzie of Fortville — have also said they would be seeking that office.
On the local level, some Bartholomew County office holders have quietly been expressing concerns whether they will face the same political consequences their predecessors endured late in the last decade.
The Bartholomew County Council created an economic development income tax in 2009. That action was widely blamed for three council members — Keith Sells, Phyllis Apple and Sue Paris — being booted off the ballot during the 2010 primary, and no additional countywide tax increases were seriously considered for the next eight years.
But last fall, the county council voted 4-3 to increase the county’s portion of local income tax taken out of wages.
“I hope voters realize that what we did was for the betterment of the community,” first-day filer Morales said.
There are at least three different circumstances between 2009 and 2017 brought up by those who advocated for the tax increase:
Local residents aren’t suffering from a major recession as they were nine years ago.
The majority of local residents who spoke before the council last fall voiced their support for the increase.
Bartholomew County is now facing an opioid crisis that requires additional financial resources and new revenue streams.
However, tax-increase opponents have repeatedly expressed anger that three separate tax increases were approved last year that must be paid by local taxpayers.
The Columbus City Council voted to increase its cumulative capital development tax rate in June. The following month, a 10 cents-per-gallon gas tax hike approved by the Indiana General Assembly went into effect.
“The county was the last to pass their tax, so we seem to have caught more criticism than the others,” county commissioner Lienhoop said.
A few opponents went so far as to accuse members of the all-GOP council of turning their backs on party ideology.
But if there is a political backlash, it likely will have a negative impact on state lawmakers, as well as county candidates, Lienhoop said.
“The state should have been inching up new taxes for roads over the years, rather than doing it all at once,” the commissioner said.
Over the next four weeks, many will be keeping an close eye on challenges against incumbent sheriff Matt Myers, Phelps said.
Rob Kittle, a retired law enforcement officer and former member of the Columbus City and Bartholomew County councils, announced his intention last July to challenge Myers in the upcoming Republican primary. Kittle had also announced plans to run for sheriff four years ago, then pulled out in a crowded Republican primary field of five.
Elected offices on the 2018 ballot for Bartholomew County
U.S. Representative, District 6
State Senator, District 41
State Representative, Districts 57, 59 and 69
Judge of Bartholomew Superior Court 1
Bartholomew County Commissioner, District 2
Bartholomew County Council, Districts 1, 2, 3, 4.
Township Trustees (Columbus, Clay, Clifty, Flatrock, German, Harrison, Hawcreek, Jackson, Ohio, Rockcreek, Sandcreek, Wayne)
Township Advisory Boards (Columbus, Flatrock, German, Harrison, Hawcreek, Jackson, Ohio, Rockcreek, Sandcreek, Wayne)
Clifford Town Council At-Large (three seats)
Edinburgh Town Council At-Large (two seats)
Elizabethtown Council At-Large (three seats)
Edinburgh Town Council (two seats)
Hope Town Council (two seats)
State Convention Delegates (22 Democrats and 25 Republicans)
Precinct Committeeman (66 Democrats)
For updates on who has filed, visit bartholomew.in.gov