Monroe County GOP gives greenlight to county chair to fill ballot vacancies

At a meeting of Republican Party precinct chairs held at Ellettsville town hall on Tuesday evening, they gave county party chair Taylor Bryant the authority to fill vacancies on the Nov. 8 election ballot.

Bryant would have until noon on July 3 fill ballot vacancies.

Before the vote, county vice chair William Ellis said Bryant’s authority is just for cases where no GOP candidate filed for the May 3 primary election, and does not extend to filling a vacancy for an office due to resignation or death.

As of Tuesday, the GOP does not have on-the-ballot candidates for several Monroe County races, like prosecutor, clerk, assessor, and two judgeships. That’s due in part to the fact that Monroe County voters favor Democratic Party candidates. In the 2020 presidential race, Democrat Joe Biden won over Republican Donald Trump by a 28-point margin.

Responding to a B Square question after Tuesday’s meeting, Bryant said for township trustee and township board positions she’s heard some interest expressed from potential candidates. About county-level positions, Bryant said, “We’ve had some conversations—I don’t know if we’re going to get anybody for those.”

Ellis said on Tuesday that Republicans stand to lose one seat on the three-member Benton Township board, if a ballot vacancy is not filled. The Democrats are fielding a full three-person slate consisting of incumbents Hans Kelson and Joe Husk, with Sean McInerney a potential newcomer.

Benton Township board incumbent Republican Lynn Stevens was not on the primary ballot. Ellis noted that Stevens had been involved in a traffic crash early in the year, and Ellis is not planning to impose on his recovery to ask Stevens to consider accepting a direct appointment to fill the vacancy.

The Polk Township board looks like it’s a bit of a sticky wicket for both parties. Of the incumbent board members, just one is running for reelection—Democrat Vic Streiff. Democrat Warren “Woody” Kilmer was not on the primary ballot. And Republican Scott Smith is running for township trustee, instead of township board. That leaves just one candidate (Streiff) on the ballot so far in the vote-for-three type race.

County-level Republicans who are already on the Nov. 8 ballot, because they filed as primary election candidates, include Perry Robinson for the District 1 county commissioner spot. He’s challenging incumbent Democrat Lee Jones.

For county recorder, Republican Paul White is going up against Amy Swain, who won the Democratic Party’s May 3 primary. For the Division 7 judge’s seat, Republican Carl Lamb faces Emily Salzmann, who won the Democratic Party primary. And in the sheriff’s race, Republican Nathan Williamson is squaring off against Democratic Party primary winner Ruben Marté.

Republican James Allen is challenging incumbent Democrat Peter Iversen for the District 1 county council seat.

Incumbent Republican Marty Hawk is running for reelection to her District 3 county council seat. No Democratic Party candidate appeared on the primary ballot for that spot.

But the Democrats have the same legal options to fill a vacancy on the ballot as Republicans do. The county council District 3 vacancy on the ballot could get filled at a Democratic Party caucus, which is set for July 3 at noon.

In the 2018 general election, Hawk faced Democrat Ashley Pirani and won by a 16-point margin.

Democratic Party chair David Henry has not been authorized to make a direct appointment. The July 3 meeting of the Dems qualifies as a caucus for filling ballot vacancies, because the notice was filed at least 10 days before it was held.

The notice for Tuesday’s GOP meeting did not hit the 10-day standard. [Added at 6:45 a.m on July 2, 2022: The GOP’s Tuesday meeting was properly noticed as a regular caucus, just not as a caucus for filling ballot vacancies, which has the extra requirement of being noticed to the county clerk 10 days in advance.] But the authorization of the county chair to make direct appointments still gives the Republicans the chance to add some candidates to the ballot.

[Updated 6:56 a.m. on July 2, 2022: The Democratic Party’s caucus for Sunday has been cancelled, according to the Democratic Party county chair David Henry. In a message to party members, Henry wrote, “Thank you to those who showed interest in running in 2022 but candidates did not meet the filing deadline for this cycle.” ]

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