2020 primaries of local interest all but set: 3-way race among Democrats to replace Stoops; 7 total county council candidates

gradient for primary cropped-2020-01-02-johnson-hardware-building-IMG_5161Candidates for major party nominations to 2020 elected office had until Friday at noon to file their declarations.

By that deadline, officially-declared candidates for Monroe County area state and local offices featured a mix of predictable names along with some that were possibly not-so-predictable.

In the familiar, predictable category are incumbents for the four countywide offices that handle different statutory functions, all Democrats. Auditor Cathy Smith, treasurer Jessica McClellan, coroner Joani Shields, and surveyor Trohn Enright-Randolph were the only people to declare candidacy for their respective offices.

In the not-so-predictable category—except maybe for voter history wonks—was Trent Feuerbach’s entry in the state senate District 40 race—as a candidate in the Democratic Party’s primary. It’s the party affiliation that might be surprising.

Six years ago, Feuerbach’s affiliation  was with the Republican Party, when he declared his candidacy for the District 9 Congressional seat, using the moniker “Tea Party Trent.” Indiana’s Election Commission decided against allowing him to use that name and removed him from the ballot.

Feuerbach’s voter history shows that he voted in the Democratic Party’s primaries in 2018 and 2019.

Feuerbach’s entry makes the state senate District 40 Democratic Party primary a three-way race. He joins former Monroe County councilor Shelli Yoder and the Democratic Party’s state chair, John Zody, in a bid for the party’s nomination to succeed incumbent Democrat Mark Stoops. Last year, Stoops announced he would not be seeking re-election.

The other area state senate race, in District 44, features only incumbent Republican Erich Koch.

The three open at-large seats on the county council attracted a total of seven candidates—five Democrats and two Republicans.

On the Republican Party side, both candidates have public safety backgrounds. James Allen is a retired firefighter. Zachary Weisheit is a Bloomington police officer.

On the Democratic Party side, the three incumbents for county council were among the early filers: Geoff McKim, Trent Deckard and Cheryl Munson. They’re joined in the Democratic Party Primary by Dominic Thompson, who is an administrative support staffer with Monroe County’s probation department, and Karl Boehm, who owns Karl’s Automotive, which sells used cars.

Neither of the two county commissioner incumbents—Julie Thomas in District 2 and Penny Githens in District 3—will see a contested Democratic Party primary. Even though commissioners must live in the geographic district for which they’re seeking office, they’re elected countywide. No Republican filed as a candidate for a county commissioner seat.

Part of  the reason that the at-large council council primary races are competitive, but the commissioner races are not, could be the way straight-party votes are applied under state law. Straight-party votes don’t apply to multiple-candidate at-large races, like the county council seats, but they do for other races, like those for county commissioner. In Monroe County, where Democrats have a strong majority, non-Democrats could benefit more, if straight-party votes aren’t applied.

That’s the wrinkle that made Randy Paul initially contemplate running as a Green Party candidate for a county council at-large seat. He has instead decided to run for a county commissioner seat, in part because he wants the commissioner race to be contested. The desire to make races contested in the fall was a big motivation for him to lead the effort to resuscitate the local Greens last fall. Paul won’t need to contest a primary, but will have to gather more that 1,000 signatures, according to his press release.

Rounding out the countywide offices are various races for circuit court judge.

Competing to challenge incumbent Republican judge Judith Benckart for the Division 8 seat are Democrats Kara Elaine Krothe, an attorney in the county’s public defender’s office, and Jeff Kehr, a deputy county prosecutor.

Incumbent Democrat Valeri Haughton is unopposed in her bid to be re-elected to circuit court judge, Division 2.

The Division 1 circuit court judgeship from which Democrat Elizabeth Cure is retiring could be filled by any of three candidates. Local Bloomington attorney Carl Lamb is the one Republican Party primary candidate. Deputy prosecutor for Monroe County Geoff Bradley will contest the Democratic Party primary with local attorney Alphonso (Al) Manns.

Rounding out the General Assembly races are several contested house races including a couple of Republican primaries.

State house District 60 incumbent Republican Peggy Mayfield has a contested primary with Dave Rinehart, a Martinsville school board member. On the Democratic Party side of the District 60 equation will be Martinsville High School math teacher Tiffany Grant.

State house District 62 incumbent Republican Jeff Ellington will contest his party’s primary with Greg Knott. The winner will face Democrat Alyssa Bailey in the general election.

State House District 65 incumbent Republican Chris May will be challenged in the general election by Democrat Paula Stanley.

Incumbent Republican Bob Heaton, who represents state house District 46, is unopposed.

Incumbent Matt Pierce, who represents state house District 61 is unopposed. Daniel Olsson, who had told a gathering of Monroe County Greens last fall that he would be running for the District 61 seat, does not appear to have filed the paperwork.

Candidates can still withdraw their candidacy by noon, Monday, Feb. 10. After that, their names will appear on the ballot, even if they don’t actively campaign.

The primary falls on May 5. Early voting starts on April 7.

[SOS Primary Candidate List]