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Absentee Ballots Go Out, Plus Interesting Tidbits about This Year’s May 3 Primary

(Photo courtesy of Hamilton County Election Office)
Hamilton County Election Adminstrator Beth Sheller prepares the first batch of primary absentee ballots to mail out on Monday.

As Hamilton County Election Office on Monday mailed out the first batch of primary election absentee ballots for the May 3 Primary, candidates across the county are preparing for their respective races. I share some interesting tidbits about this year’s Primary.

It’s the first time for a race since new district lines have been drawn due to congressional redistricting.  

World-renown attorney Greg Garrison, 74, Fishers, who gained national attention in 1992 as special prosecutor in the rape case of boxer Mike Tyson and who also served as CBS News legal analyst, is running against incumbent Lee Buckingham for Hamilton County Prosecutor. Buckingham has been in office since 2011. The position in 2021 paid an annual salary of $157,393.75 from the State of Indiana plus a $5,000 stipend from Hamilton County, according to Gateway Indiana, an open door into local government finance.

Hamilton County Council District 3 has two Republican candidates, Noblesville’s  Mark Hall, business owner and co-founder of FeedingTeam.org, and incumbent Steve Schwartz, owner of Schwartz’s Bait & Tackle and who has held the office since being elected in 2002. The four-year position, in 2021, paid an annual salary of $35,864.76.

Hamilton County Deputy Coroner Jeff Jellison, a Noblesville High School graduate and former newspaperman and former police officer, is running against Ned P. Masbaum, for County Coroner. The position in 2021 paid an annual salary of $83,799.81. Masbaum is a former lieutenant commander and chief of psychiatry for the U.S. Naval Hospital and court-appointed forensic psychiatrist throughout Indiana.

Noblesville Township Board, interestingly, has the largest race with nine candidates vying for three seats: incumbents Peggy R. Pfister and Joe Arrowood, and Terry Busby, David Cox, Charlie McMillan Jr., Adrienne Rogers, Mary Sue Rowland and Perry Williams, all Republicans, and Paula Jo Gilliam, Democrat. The office is a four-year term and in 2021 paid an annual salary of $13,500. John Davis had previously been the third township board member and did not seek re-election.

Fall Creek Township Board has the second-largest race with eight candidates for three seats: four Republicans Brian Baehl (incumbent), Jason W. Meyer (incumbent), Tony Scott and Patricia Bratton; and four Democrats, Joe Weingarten, Rachna Greulach (incumbent), Sukriti Ssachdeva and Kimberly Passey-Strahan. Annual salary is $5,150.

Washington Township Board has six candidates for three seats, five Republicans, Rich J. Hardcastle Jr., Danyele Easterhas (incumbent), Jim Ake, Charles E. Driver Jr. and Erica Strahm (incumbent); and one Democrat, Shelly Brown. Annual salary is $4,700.

Wayne Township Board has six candidates for three seats, also, all Republicans, Robert Baker, Phil Belcher, Maegen Fleck, Robert Dustin Hiday (incumbent), Joy Sisson Kiskaden and Rockford V. Stites. Annual salary is $4,000.

In Clay Township, Carmel High School graduate and Carmel Dad’s Club board member, Republican Paul Hensel, is running for Clay Township Trustee after current trustee Doug Callahan did not seek re-election.

A rumor that Hensel’s opponent, Republican Eric S. Morris, attempted to file a withdrawal of candidacy after the required Feb. 11 deadline has been confirmed by Hamilton County election administrator Beth Sheller. (Morris plans to move from the district in the fall.)

Both Hensel and Morris names are printed on the primary election absentee ballot sent out in Monday’s mail. The salary for the position was $69,822 in 2021.

“The ballots have been created, and it is too late to withdraw for the Primary since he (Morris) is not ‘disqualified,’” Sheller said on March 2.

There is a CAN-24 form that can be completed to withdraw from the November General Election if necessary, she said. It would have to be submitted to the county Election Office by noon July 15.

“So if he were to win the Primary, he would use a form to withdraw then, and then the ballot vacancy would be filled by a caucus,” she said. If Morris doesn’t win the Primary, there will need to be no action taken on his part.

On the flip side, if a candidate becomes “disqualified by law” or moves from the district, then the candidate must file a withdrawal immediately, Sheller said.

She said there was one other candidate who attempted to withdraw but his or her name was not given.

The Election Office will spend all week, with Saturday the deadline, to mail absentee ballots to voters who have previously filed an approved application to receive an absentee ballot. The Election Office will continue to mail absentee ballots with the April 21 deadline to request delivery of an absentee ballot by mail. May 2 is the deadline for a voter to vote an absentee ballot in person.

“We have gotten the ballot ready. We are scheduling absentee mail workers and early voting workers,” Sheller said earlier this month. “This has taken most of my time since we had an off year last year. Every worker has to come in and complete a background check and a couple hours of county orientation. This is a lot of work for us.”

The current election information on the Hamilton County Election website has 17 pages of candidates running for office.

On that list, voters will find 12 “Challenged and Removed” candidates, who will not be on the ballots.

These 12 candidates were challenged and removed by new county Republican chairman Mario Massillamany.

“They were challenged because they did not have Republican voting in the last two primaries they voted in,” Sheller said. A new law requires Republican candidates to have voted Republican in two primaries, rather than just one, which was the previous law.

“The Election Board was consistent and removed them all because the challenges were valid,” Sheller said. “They had to be challenged in the same time frame that someone could withdraw, which is the week after filing ends (one week for challenges and withdrawals). This then allows us time to get the ballot prepared.”

There were also eight candidates listed as “withdrawn” from the ballots. One of those candidates was Hamilton County Council District 1 candidate Republican Fred Glynn, of Carmel, who withdrew his candidacy to instead run for the new State Representative District 32 seat, which covers portions of southern Clay and Delaware townships and a few precincts in northern Marion County. Glynn ran for mayor of Carmel in 2019 against incumbent Jim Brainard, who has been mayor since 1996.

Besides Township Board seats, elections will also be conducted for local town councils, in Arcadia, Atlanta, Cicero and Sheridan. The most popular town council race looks like Cicero at-large, with five Republicans running for two seats: Joe Cox, Brett S. Foster, Garry A. Harling, Eric Hayden and Heidi Wilcox, with no incumbents.

This year, Democratic Precinct Committeemen will be elected, and there are 49 candidates running for 47 seats. Democratic State Convention Delegates will also be elected for five districts, and there are fewer candidates running than there are seats.

Republican State Convention Delegates are running in 16 districts, with 86 candidates running for 175 seats. The term length of state delegate is two years, and precinct committee person office is four years. Republican Precinct Committeemen will next run for office in 2024.

Typically, in a non-Presidential election year, low voter turnout is expected. But this election year, I expect voters to come to the polls or vote absentee so they can make a difference in their local elections.

Early voting will be offered Saturdays, April 23 and 30. Election Day hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 3.

– Contact Betsy Reason at betsy@thetimes24-7.com.