This and that: More primary challengers line up as filing deadline passes
The rundown of primary races, along with good dose of this and that in this Saturday morning edition.
Today’s edition is sponsored by the Purdue Presidential Lecture Series. Join Purdue President Mung Chiang for a fireside chat with Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the U.S. National Science Foundation, and U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana. The discussion will be in Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13. This event is free and open to the public. Learn more and reserve your seat: purdue.edu/president/lecture-series.
MORE PRIMARY CHALLENGERS LINE UP AS FILING DEADLINE PASSES
Even after the noon Friday deadline for major party candidates to file to get on May 7 primary ballots, things could change in the coming weeks, if we see some changes of heart or challenges. Not saying either of those will happen, but …
Friday brought a small flurry of last-minute filings during the monthlong process. Here are some of the highlights and where things stood on Tippecanoe County ballots, according to lists compiled by the county elections office and the Secretary of State.
General Assembly districts: This would be the first campaign cycles in a while where every incumbent in a district with Tippecanoe County voters will have a contested race. And three of the five in Indiana House districts will face primaries. (The two senators who represent parts of Tippecanoe County – Republicans Ron Alting of Lafayette and Spencer Deery of West Lafayette – are in the middle of four-year terms.)
District 26: West Lafayette Republican Jim Schenke filed Friday to challenge state Rep. Chris Campbell, a West Lafayette Democrat running for her fourth term.
District 27: Rep. Sheila Klinker, first elected in 1982 and the longest serving member of the Indiana House, will run for another two-year terms. Republican Oscar Alvarez filed last week to challenge for the seat in the November election.
District 13: Rep. Sharon Negele, R-District 13, is facing a challenge from Matthew Commons, a Warren County Council member, in the Republican primary. Democrat Ed Moyer Jr. filed last week in District 13. That district includes portions of Tippecanoe, Benton, Warren, Fountain, Jasper, Montgomery, Newton and White counties.
District 41: Rep. Mark Genda, a Republican from Frankfort in his first term, will face Joe Sturm, a Lauramie Town Council member, in the May primary. Dan Sikes, a Democrat, filed this week. That district covers parts of Clinton, Boone and Tippecanoe counties.
District 38: Rep. Heath VanNatter, a Republican from Kokomo, picked up a primary challenge from Jason Gossard. The district includes the northeast corner of Tippecanoe County.
U.S. House, 4th District: Add two more Republicans to the list of challengers for U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, as he runs for a fourth, two-year term in Congress. Charles Bookwalter, an Army veteran and business owner in Thorntown, filed for the Republican primary early in the filing deadline. Last week, a third Republican, Chris Lucas, filed. In the final two days of the filing period, John P. Piper and Trent Lester joined the race.
Baird, a Greencastle farmer, former state representative and Vietnam veteran, was first elected in the 4th District in 2018, successfully winning re-election in two elections since then. Bookwalter attempted a run in 2022 but was blocked when Republicans challenged his candidacy, saying he didn’t meet a state law that says a candidate must have voted in two party primaries to qualify to run, unless a party chair signs off. Bookwalter took that Indiana Election Commission decision to court but lost. Bookwalter has been campaigning since then for a 2024 run, holding listening sessions on social media platforms and calling out Baird’s use of billboards that, while qualifying as franked spending, have been paid for with federal money. Bookwalter has criticized Baird as not conservative enough for the district. Lucas wrote on his campaign site that he would have challenged COVID mandates and vaccine. Lucas said, “I don't know any elected officials who put up a fight.” Lester and Piper were late adds.
Democrats will have a primary, too. Rimpi Girn, an insurance agency owner in the southern portion of the district, and Derrick Holder of Martinsville. The winner there will face a steep climb. Republicans have consistently won with 60% or better of the vote in the past two decades.
Tippecanoe County commissioners: Dave Byers, an incumbent Tippecanoe County commissioner in District 2, will get a challenge in the Republican primary by Jeff Findlay. Findlay, a retired owner of Findlay Drilling Co., has been prominent in recent months, as protest continues over Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s proposal to plant high-volume wells in western Tippecanoe County and build a pipeline to take water from the aquifer near the Wabash River to service large manufacturers being recruited to the 9,000-acre LEAP district two counties away, near Lebanon. No Democrat had filed as of Thursday afternoon. Steven Mayoras, a Libertarian, and Wissam Nour, an independent, filed to be on the November ballot for a commissioner district that covers the western portion of the county.
District 3 incumbent Tom Murtaugh, a Republican, will be challenged by Jaime Ortiz, a Libertarian, in November. No Democrats had filed in time to be on the primary ballot for county commissioner.
Tippecanoe County Council: A whopping 10 candidates – five Democrats and five Republicans –have filed for three at-large seats on the Tippecanoe County Council, the fiscal body of the county government. The list is below.
Republican precinct races: Democrats in Tippecanoe County turned elections for precinct committee positions – ones doing much of the grass roots work of the party – into a contested affair in 2022, with a progressive block looking to have more of a say in the party’s direction. The 2024 primary is the Republican Party’s turn in Tippecanoe County. According to the county elections office, 26 of the 102 precinct committee slots will have at least two candidates. There also will be 70 Republicans vying for 33 slots at the party’s state convention, where delegates will have a say in the nominations for lieutenant governor and attorney general. This will be one to watch locally.
Here’s a list, including candidates who have announced intentions to file, as of the noon Friday deadline. (* = incumbent)
Commissioner, District 2: David Byers* and Jeff Findley, R; Steven Mayoras, Libertarian; Wissam Nour, Independent
Commissioner, District 3: Tom Murtaugh*, R; Jaime Ortiz, Libertarian
County Council, at-large (3): Republicans: John Basham*, Paige Britton, Dan Dunten, Barry Richard* and Kevin Underwood*. Democrats: Katy Bunder, Ben Carson, Amanda Eldridge, Joe Mackey and Wendy Starr.
Coroner: Carrie Costello*, R; Elizabeth Tran, D
Treasurer: Yadira Salazar*, R; Michael Lingley, D
Surveyor: Zach Beasley*, R; Deni Gavin, D
Judge, Circuit Court: Sean Persin*, R
Judge, Superior Court 6: Michael Morrissey*, R
House District 13: Matthew Commons and Sharon Negele*, R; Ed Moyer Jr., D
House District 26: Chris Campbell*, D; Jim Schenke, R
House District 27: Sheila Klinker*, D; Oscar Alvarez, R
House District 38: Heath VanNatter* and Jason Gossard, R
House District 41: Mark Genda* and Joe Sturm, R; Dan Sikes, D
Governor: Mike Braun, Brad Chambers, Suzanne Crouch, Eric Doden, Curtis Hill and Jamie Reitenour, R; Jennifer McCormick and Tamie Dixon-Tatum, D
U.S. House, District 4: Jim Baird*, Charles Bookwalter, Trent Lester, Christopher John Lucas and John Piper, R; Rimpi Girn and Derrick Holder, D
U.S. Senate: Jim Banks and John Rust, R; Valerie McCray and Marc Carmichael, D
Shadeland Township Board: Michael Kuipers, R; Pamela Luenz, R; Robert Morrison Jr. and Josh Shives, R.
Shadeland Clerk-Treasurer: Charlene Brown, R
The general election also will include these, with filing deadlines this summer …
School boards: Lafayette School Corp., three at-large seats; Tippecanoe School Corp. seats in District 4, District 5, District 6 and District 7; and West Lafayette Community School Corp, four at-large seats.
For information about filing as a candidate, go to: https://www.tippecanoe.in.gov/448/Candidate-Information
To check your voter registration status: Go to the Secretary of State’s portal at www.indianavoters.com.
Today’s a good day to upgrade to a full-access subscription to Based in Lafayette. Today’s also a good day for a deal. Through Sunday, first-time subscribers can get 15% off. That’s less than 20 cents an issue. Details here …
THIS AND THAT …
FIDDLERS’ GOES DARK THIS YEAR: Friday brought rough news on the summer festival front, when organizers said they would postpone this year’s Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering. The Fiddlers’ board said a recent change in leadership put a kink in planning for the late-June event in Battle Ground, a mainstay of Tippecanoe County’s summers for 52 years. The release didn’t elaborate. And Sarah Stantz, Fiddlers’ board vice president, said more answers could come soon. “Our dedicated team is working tirelessly to reschedule the festival for a later date, with intention planning to return in June 2025,” Stantz wrote in an email to Fiddlers’ backers Friday. “We are exploring all possibilities to ensure that the essence and magic of the Indiana Fiddlers' Gathering Music Festival will be preserved in the rescheduled event.” The Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering brings regional and national string bands to a stage in the Indiana Battlefield Park for three days, where the impromptu, pickup action under the trees goes on all day and night.
IU PRESIDENT QUESTIONS SEN. DEERY’S TENURE BILL: Indiana Public Media reporter Ethan Sandweiss had a piece this week talking about IU President Pamela Whitten’s criticism of Senate Bill 202, a conservative take on campus tenure rules that passed the Indiana Senate Tuesday on a 39-9 vote. The bill, authored by state Sen. Spencer Deery, R-West Lafayette, is aimed at perceptions of higher education in the state and concerns about what Deery called “the hyper-politicalization and monolithic thinking of American higher education institutions.” Deery, who was part of Mitch Daniels’ administration at Purdue, has said the bill is intended to counter what he said were “declining views of higher ed” that might make some conservative students and faculty feel pressure to stifle their own views.
Whitten released a statement, aimed at what she called “unintended consequences” embedded in the bill’s language: “While we are still analyzing the broad potential impacts of SB 202, we are deeply concerned about language regarding faculty tenure that would put academic freedom at risk, weaken the intellectual rigor essential to preparing students with critical thinking skills, and damage our ability to compete for the world-class faculty who are at the core of what makes IU an extraordinary research institution.”
Asked about Purdue administration’s view of Senate Bill 202, university spokesman Tim Doty said, “As this bill goes through the legislative process, we are working to fully understand its details.”
Here’s a link to Sandweiss’ full report: “IU president Whitten comes out against controversial tenure bill.”
PURDUE AND THE ECLIPSE: Expect to hear plenty about the April 8 total eclipse before it runs a course through Indiana, just south of Lafayette. Purdue released more details about its partnership with the NASA and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a day of events. Check the lineup here in the university’s write-up: “Purdue, IMS invite the public to have the pole position for total eclipse of the sun.”
OTHER READS …
J&C reporter Ron Wilkins had the guilty verdict of Kevon McCaster, who had been accused in the murders of Tommy Marshall and Edward Roberson Jr. at a party at a southern Lafayette apartment complex in 2022. Here’s the story at the conclusion of a three-day bench trial: “Block-party killer guilty of two counts of murder for April 2022 shootings.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb, fresh from a visit to the Texas border with Mexico, announced Friday that he would send 50 Indiana National Guard troops to Texas, after what he called a direct request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. His rationale, laid out in a new release Friday: “Federal negligence enforcing immigration law and the failure to secure our country’s border jeopardizes national and economic security, affecting every state, including Indiana. We’ve worked too hard in Indiana attacking the drug epidemic for more Hoosier lives to be put at risk by a constant supply of killer drugs spilled over an open U.S. border. The only way to resolve this is to stop the historically high flow of illegal immigrants crossing the border.” Indiana Capital Chronicle reporter Leslie Bonilla Muñiz had this account and reaction to the move: “Holcomb deploys Indiana National Guard to Texas border.”
AND FINALLY …
WLFI’s Vinny Martorano had this find, via West Lafayette Public Works Director Ben Anderson, at the Dodge Street/Northwestern Avenue crossing to Mackey Arena. Push for the walk sign, get a dose of “Hail Purdue.” Tipoff tonight for Purdue-IU in West Lafayette: 8 p.m.
Thanks, again, for sponsorship help from the Purdue Presidential Lecture Series. Purdue President Mung Chiang will host a fireside chat with Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the U.S. National Science Foundation, and U.S. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, at Stewart Center’s Fowler Hall. Free. Learn more and reserve your seat: purdue.edu/president/lecture-series.
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