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Column: Plenty of names mentioned as mayoral candidates


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In a little less than five months local voters will go to the polls to select the men and women who will occupy a number of governmental offices on the county and state level.

The next time many of them will return to the voting booths will be six months later, May 5, when Columbus residents will select the nominees for municipal offices.

You’d think that most people would be talking about the fast approaching countywide election these days. Actually, there’s far more interest in who will be running for mayor in the primary election 11 months from now.

And that brings me to a tradition that I intend to continue in this particular essay. Actually, it’s a pretty short-lived tradition that began in January 2010 when I penned a column listing the names of several local residents who had been mentioned as potential mayoral candidates.

Since that particular general election was 22 months in the future, the name-mentioning was pure speculation. In fact, some of those on the list had no intention of running and didn’t even know their names were being tossed about.

Some of the names were pretty familiar figures. Ironically several were members of the City Council, including George Dutro, Jim Lienhoop, Martha Myers, Joe Richardson and Priscilla Scalf. Scalf and Richardson were the only ones to take the actual plunge.

There were some surprises on the list, most notably the name of a woman who had only a few years earlier moved back to her hometown and had attracted a measure of attention through her letters to the editor questioning some of the actions of Mayor Fred Armstrong’s administration in the efforts to revitalize the downtown.

Her name was Kristen Brown, and, of course,she was eventually elected the city’s mayor.

Should she seek re-election — and it’s a pretty good bet that she will elect to run — she’s likely to find a number of candidates wanting to block her way.

Ironically, most of the opposition is likely to come from within her own party (Republican). In fact, if the recent 2014 primary election is any indicator, there could be some Democrats willing to become Republicans to run against her in the GOP primary. One of those former Democrats, Superior Court 2 Judge Kitty Coriden, took the Republican primary last month.

While there is some thought that multiple opposition candidates will split the votes not going to the incumbent (as many believe happened when incumbent Jorge Morales won a narrow victory over Paul Franke and Paul Nolting in last month’s Republican primary contest for a seat on the County Council), the list of names being dropped for mayoral bids has not lessened.

Once again, the City Council is considered fertile ground for an eventual step into the mayor’s office.

Ryan Brand, president of the council last year and a Columbus businessman, has been frequently cited as a potential candidate. So has fellow council member Jim Lienhoop, who by the way, was one of those talked about as a potential candidate in 2011.

Even former city managers who served early in Mayor Brown’s administration have been talked about. Those on the might-be list include former Community Development director Mary Ferdon and former City Engineer David Hayward.

There has also been mention of private sector individuals such as Tom Harmon, community leader and chief executive officer of Taylor Brothers Construction; retired business owner Tom Vujovich (who served as community development director in Nancy Ann Brown’s administration in the early 1980s); activist Laurie Booher (who was one of the developers of the Freedom Park project); Columbus attorney Pete King (a major behind the scenes voice in the local Republican party); and Maj. Gen Mark Pillar, U.S. Air Force (retired), who has served as president of several local organizations such as the Columbus Rotary Club and the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

Even members of county government have been mentioned as mayoral material. Once again the name of Bartholomew County Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz has been tossed about in speculative conversations, but he first will have to change addresses, moving within city limits.

Mind you, these names are all pure speculation at this point, and they have only been mentioned by others as possible candidates. No one, including Mayor Brown, has made any kind of official announcement, and some might even have been unaware that their names have been mentioned in such a fashion.

This is all pure speculation, which is what people do during the hot stove league political season.

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