Columbus Police Department Lt. Matt Myers defeated three deputy sheriffs Tuesday to claim the Republican nominee for Bartholomew County Sheriff in the November election.
Myers defeated Maj. Todd Noblitt, chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Department, and two veteran sergeants, T.A. Smith and Dean Johnson.
The Republican primary winner received 37.1 percent of the vote. Noblitt finished 523 votes behind in unofficial results, pulling 31.3 percent of votes cast. They were followed by Smith, at 22.8 percent; and Johnson, at 8.8 percent.
Myers gave much of the credit for his victory to his campaign committee, which he described as “rock solid” in getting the word out about his candidacy.
But his biggest thanks Tuesday night was reserved for his wife, Kyra Goins-Myers, and his three children, John-David, Kolsen and Nash.
“Doing the campaign, doing the full-time job, being a daddy, being a coach ... it forces you to prioritize,” Myers said. “If you want to know the toughest part of campaigning for a year, you need to ask my wife and kids. They could tell you more about how hard it’s been.”
Earlier in the evening, Noblitt expressed similar feelings regarding his wife, Mary Fisher Noblitt, and his son, Christopher.
“Too often in a political campaign, your family ends up taking a back seat to a lot of things,” Noblitt said. “I really believe it’s tougher on the families than it is the candidates. But as I was looking back on it, I really believe there’s nothing we would have done differently.”
Myers and Noblitt were the top recipients in campaign contributions among all local candidates. Myers reported earning $30,898 through April 12, followed by Noblitt with $27,615. Smith was able to garner $23,615 in donations, while Johnson trailed the pack with $10,709.
Myers said while he’s grateful for those who cast their ballots Tuesday, he expressed disappointment with the low voter turnout.
County voters cast 10,318 ballots, for a turnout of 19.78 percent. That compares to the 2010 county primary turnout of 9,643 voters and a turnout rate of 19.65 percent.
Turnout was higher in the county’s past two presidential primaries: 23.87 percent in 2012 and 37.46 percent in 2008.
Bartholomew County Election Supervisor Jay Phelps had similar thoughts about the turnout.
“I really thought by the high level of absentee voting, especially with the sheriff and judge races, we would had 30 percent (turnout),” Phelps said. “I think it would have increased turnout somewhat if there were more Democratic races, but I don’t think it would have made that much of a difference.”
Tuesday’s primary marked the end of a year of campaigning by almost all the candidates for sheriff.
Myers, who threw his hat into the ring last July, has called for a regional approach to law enforcement, seeking more collaboration among the sheriff’s departments and police agencies in surrounding counties. Myers has also pledged to focus on repeat offenders, who commit a large percentage of the crimes in the community.
Noblitt, who has served as the second-in-command of the sheriff’s department for five years, was the first person to announce he was running for sheriff, in April 2013. While saying incumbent sheriff Mark Gorbett’s administration has done many things well, Noblitt had advocated increasing the department’s focus on engaging youth in the community and on the elderly.
Gorbett leaves office at the end of the year after serving as sheriff for two terms, the maximum allowed. However, Gorbett won the Republican primary for District 3 County Council, running unopposed.
Last May, Smith, who ran for sheriff in 1998, became the second person to announce his intentions to succeed Gorbett. Rather than criticize the incumbent or other candidates, Smith just relied on his 30-plus years of experience to appeal to voters.
Efforts to reach Smith after the vote totals came in Tuesday night were unsuccessful.
Johnson, a 28-year veteran of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, became the third candidate last June. His priorities included increasing the deputies working on narcotics cases and ensuring deputies are patrolling remote areas of the county late at night.
“I’ve known Matt all his career,” Johnson said in offering congratulations to the winner. “He’s a good guy.”
Noblitt is confident there will not be any issues or long-term ill will among the four sheriff candidates now that the primary is over.
“There’s not an option for us not to get along, because we’ve all taken the same oath to protect and serve this community,” Noblitt said Tuesday night. “Besides, it’s been a very positive campaign. We’ll all rise tomorrow, and go whatever way God wants us to go.”
While Johnson said there were things he would have done differently if he were to run again for office, he said he was especially pleased with the support he garnered from his neighbors in southwest Bartholomew County.
Johnson was among three deputies disciplined last year in the investigation of an April 7, 2013, Bartholomew County suicide investigation.
County Democrats did not field a candidate for sheriff, but the party has until June 30 to fill ballot vacancies for the November general election. The Libertarian Party may do the same as long as it submits paperwork by July 3.
Bartholomew County Sheriff
Matt Myers 3,334
Todd Noblitt 2,811
T.A. Smith 2,052
Dean Johnson 788