2023 Bloomington Democratic Party primary results: Thomson wins mayoral nomination, 5 of 9 councilmembers won’t return in 2024

On Tuesday, Kerry Thomson won a clear 10-point victory over second-place finisher Susan Sandberg in the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor of Bloomington.

[.pdf file of 2023 unofficial primary election results]

Thomson did not get a majority of the 8,012 votes in the three-way race.

Thomson’s 3,444 votes gave her about 43 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent (2,644) for Susan Sandberg and 24 percent (1,924) for Don Griffin.

No Republican has yet declared a candidacy for mayor and no independent candidate has submitted the required 352 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. To appear on the ballot as an independent candidate for mayor or city council, qualifying signatures  have to be submitted by June 30.

So it’s likely that Thomson will be the next mayor of Bloomington. Incumbent mayor John Hamilton did not seek re-election.

Sandberg’s unsuccessful mayoral bid means that in 2024 she won’t be serving as an elected official in Bloomington for the first time in 17 years. Sandberg’s mayoral run meant that she did not seek re-election to the city council.

Tuesday’s primary results mean that no more than four of Bloomington city council incumbents will still be serving on the city council in 2024. The four who will likely still be serving are: Isabel Piedmont-Smith (District 1); Kate Rosenbarger (District 2); Dave Rollo (District 4); and Matt Flaherty (at large).

Otherwise put, when the next edition of Bloomington’s city council is sworn in on Jan. 1, 2024, five current councilmembers won’t be taking the oath.

Sandberg’s departure from the city council was a given, before any primary election results were known.

At-large councilmember Jim Sims did not seek re-election.

Also known was the fact that just one of a pair of other incumbents—Kate Rosenbarger and Sue Sgambelluri—could continue in 2024. The result of redistricting in 2022 put both of those incumbents in District 2.

It was Rosenbarger who prevailed on Tuesday, receiving 679 votes (51.48 percent) compared to Sgambelluri’s 640 (48.52 percent). The 39-vote margin was the closest of any city council race.

Three was the number of guaranteed departures from the council.

Adding to the number of incumbents who are leaving the council at the end of the year was District 3 representative Ron Smith, who lost  a three-way race to Hopi Stosberg. She received 584 votes (57.31 percent) compared to 277 votes (27.18 percent) for Smith, and 158 votes (15.51 percent) for Conner Wright.

Stosberg will square off against Republican Brett Heinisch in the general election. Heinisch is the only declared Republican candidate for Bloomington city council.

Making it five departures from the city council was Steve Volan, who placed sixth out of seven candidates for the three at-large council seats.

The top vote getter in the at-large city council race was challenger Isak Asare who received 4,194 votes (19.91 percent). Placing second was challenger and former city councilmember Andy Ruff, whose 3,961 votes gave him 18.81 percent of the votes that were cast. Taking the third spot was incumbent Matt Flaherty with 3,726 votes (17.69 percent).

In the at-large race, the spread between first and third place was about 2 points. But the break between third place and fourth place was about 4 points.

Two other probable newcomers to the council are Shruti Rana and David Wolfe Bender.

Rana won the race for the District 5 nomination over another newcomer, Jenny Stevens. As the result of redistricting, no incumbent lives in District 5. Rana received 1,291 votes (58.13 percent) compared to 930 votes (41.87 percent) for Stevens.

Bender was unopposed in the District 6 race. Whether he stays on the ballot as the Democratic Party’s nominee for the District 6 city council seat could be determined at a May 18 election board hearing on the question of Bender’s residency.

Keeping a spot on the city council was Isabel Piedmont-Smith, who won the District 1 race over challenger Joe Lee. Piedmont Smith received 708 votes (58.18 percent) compared to 509 votes (41.82 percent) for Lee.

Also keeping a spot on the city council was Dave Rollo, who was unopposed in the race for the District 4 nomination.

For Rollo’s uncontested race, there were 383 people who did not fill in the oval next to Rollo’s name, compared to 1,471 who did, which is a 20.7-percent undervote. [383/(383+1,471)]

For Bender’s unopposed race, 32 people who went to the polls didn’t fill in the oval for Bender, compared to 69 who did. That’s a 31.6-percent undervote. [32/(32+69)]

Significant undervotes are generally expected in uncontested races—because many voters choose to protest the lack of a choice by not filling in the oval for the one candidate appearing on the ballot.

But the rate of undervoting for Bender was a lot higher—and for Rollo a little bit higher—than for the other unopposed race on the ballot, which was for city clerk.

Nicole Bolden was the only candidate for city clerk on the ballot—and 6,543 voters filled in the oval beside her name, compared to 1,502 who did not. That’s an 18.6 percent undervote. [1,502/(1,502+6,543)]

Predictive value of polls?

A scientific poll of Bloomington’s mayoral race, conducted by The B Square in early March, showed that 58 percent of voters were still undecided. The breakdown was: Griffin, 9 percent of all voters; Sandberg, 15 percent of all voters; and Thomson, 18 percent of all voters.

Among just the voters who had decided, here’s how the polling percentages work out, compared to the actual percentages from Tuesday’s results.

Griffin: 9/(9+15+18) = 21.4 percent. Griffin’s actual result= 24.01 percent.
Sandberg: 15/(9+15+18) = 35.7 percent. Sandberg’s actual result = 33.00 percent.
Thomson: 18/(9+15+18) = 42.9 percent. Thomson’s actual result = 42.99 percent.

A prediction of primary election results made just on the basis of those voters who had already decided on their mayoral choice in early March would have been close to the actual results.

District 1 Bloomington city council

District 2 Bloomington city council

District 3 Bloomington city council

District 5 Bloomington city council

At-large Bloomington city council

Table: Will Bloomington city council incumbents serve in 2204?
Incumbent Name 2024? Note
Kate Rosenbarger probably won District 2 primary against Sgambelluri
Sue Sgambelluri no lost District 2 primary against Rosenbarger
Ron Smith no lost District 3 primary to challenger Hopi Stosberg
Dave Rollo probably was unchallenged in District 4 primary
Isabel Piedmont-Smith probably won District 1 primary
Steve Volan no did not run in District 4, lost bid for at-large seat
Susan Sandberg no ran for mayor instead
Jim Sims no did not run for re-election
Matt Flaherty probably won bid for re-election to at-large seat



Results Table: May 2, 2023 primary elections
Office Name Votes %
Blmgton Mayor (D) Kerry Thomson 3444 42.99%
Susan Sandberg 2644 33.00%
Don Griffin 1924 24.01%
Blmgton Mayor (D) Total 8012
Blmgton Clerk (D) Nicole Bolden 6543 100.00%
Blmgton Clerk (D) Total 6543
Blmgton District 1 (D) Isabel Piedmont-Smith 708 58.18%
Joe Lee 509 41.82%
Blmgton District 1 (D) Total 1217
Blmgton District 2 (D) Kate Rosenbarger 679 51.48%
Sue Sgambelluri 640 48.52%
Blmgton District 2 (D) Total 1319
Blmgton District 3 (D) Hopi Stosberg 584 57.31%
Ron Smith 277 27.18%
Conner Wright 158 15.51%
Blmgton District 3 (D) Total 1019
Blmgton District 3 (R) Brett Heinisch 45 100.00%
Blmgton District 3 (R) Total 45
Blmgton District 4 (D) Dave Rollo 1471 100.00%
Blmgton District 4 (D) Total 1471
Blmgton District 5 (D) Shruti Rana 1291 58.13%
Jenny Stevens 930 41.87%
Blmgton District 5 (D) Total 2221
Blmgton District 6 (D) David Wolfe Bender 69 100.00%
Blmgton District 6 (D) Total 69
Blmgton At Large (D) Isak Asare 4194 19.91%
Andy Ruff 3961 18.81%
Matt Flaherty 3726 17.69%
Lois Sabo-Skelton 2852 13.54%
Jonas Schrodt 2673 12.69%
Steve Volan 2560 12.16%
Ryne Shadday 1095 5.20%
Blmgton At Large (D) Total 21061
Ellettsville Clerk/Treasurer (R) Noelle M Conyer 126 57.27%
Paul A Turner 52 23.64%
Dan Swafford 42 19.09%
Ellettsville Clerk/Treasurer (R) Total 220
Ellettsville Ward 2 (R) William Ellis 179 100.00%
Ellettsville Ward 2 (R) Total 179
Ellettsville Ward 3 (R) Scott Oldham 180 100.00%
Ellettsville Ward 3 (R) Total 180
Ellettsville Town Council (R) Trevor Sager 174 100.00%
Ellettsville Town Council (R) Total 174

7 thoughts on “2023 Bloomington Democratic Party primary results: Thomson wins mayoral nomination, 5 of 9 councilmembers won’t return in 2024

  1. Hmmm. What is the current population total for Bloomington, the percentage that didn’t vote, and could you do an article on how many turn out in the general election over the years?

    1. According to the pdf file, there were 49,243 registered voters. However, I don’t know if that’s for all of Monroe County or if that’s just city residents that were eligible to vote.
      In any case, only 16% of registered voters voted in this election.
      If that 49,000 number is the number of city folks allowed to vote (because county residents couldn’t vote), then the primary turnout is pretty dang small.

  2. I just want to say “BRAVO” to Dave Askins for a well done, well organized, understandable and thoughtful article. Reporting statistics has to be a journalists nightmare. I found that this article held my interest all the way to the end. Thanks for the hard work, Dave.

    1. 100% agreement here. David has done an outstanding job with this analysis!

  3. I totally agree that Dave deserves kudos for his detailed reporting of election results and more. We are so fortunate to have a journalist with his skill to keep us informed now that the H-T has dropped the ball. I rely on Dave for news about our community. Thank you, Dave!

  4. Dave did a great job. But so did HTO. Even with their limited resources, the HTO had several very fine articles about the election wrap up

    1. No disagreement, Sue. But while it’s true that Gannett has left the H-T with limited resources (a news editor and staff of four, who deserve medals), the B-Square’s expansive staff (= Dave) is not actually as robust as it often seems.

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