This and that on a Friday
A few notes after Tuesday’s primary, including why Americus cared about a House race in southern Indiana.
Thanks this morning to sponsor Stuart & Branigin for support to help make this edition of the Based in Lafayette reporting project possible.
Time for a little of this and a little of that on a Friday morning …
A HANDFUL OF ELECTION NOTES …:
Turnout: Tippecanoe County Clerk Julie Roush was calling the 7.6% turnout in Tuesday’s primary was the lowest for a midterm primary. That included a roughly 1% turnout in precincts that have the highest concentration of Purdue students, Roush said. (For comparison: In 2018 there were 20,552. That was a bit over 19% for that year. That primary had some higher-profile races that were missing on this year’s ballot. That included U.S. Senate and 4th District House races, as well as a concerted push by Tippecanoe County Democrats in a series of county and township positions.) The all-time low, Roush said, was a 2019 city primary that drew a 2.3% turnout. That year, the lone contested race featured four Democrats looking to fill three slots in the Lafayette City Council at-large ballot.
Tied up: Tuesday’s primary left two contests in Tippecanoe County tied.
In the Republican race for Lauramie Township Board, Jordan Mellinger and Joe Sturm tied for third with 88 votes. Harold (Junior) Tull and Larry Funk finished one-two in a five-candidate field. The top three go on to the November ballot.
For a precinct committee position in Fairfield 7, Alex Dewitt and Ben Murray each had 19 votes. Typically, a precinct race wouldn’t make much noise. But progressives in the Democratic Party challenged more established candidates for dozens of precinct committee seats, which help decide the direction of the party and pick successors when there are vacancies on elected boards. Tuesday, that effort wound up winning precinct committee positions from a range of leading Democrats, including city council members, a Lafayette Board of Works member and others.
In both cases, the county party chairs will break the tie.
Purdue police chief in sheriff’s race: Purdue announced April 29 that John Cox, chief of the university police department for the past 13 years, would retire, as of July 31. On Tuesday, Cox cruised to a win in the Republican primary for Benton County sheriff. Cox took 75% of the vote in a contest against Donald Zickmund.
Why Americus was watching this race: Far from Tippecanoe County, state Rep. Bruce Borders beat state Rep. Jeff Ellington in a Republican primary, after the two were drawn into the same House District 45, in the southern part of the state. Of local note, Ellington’s moves were tracked closely by those who live near Americus, just north of Lafayette. The residents of Americus fought for years to keep a quarry from opening off Old Indiana 25, winning a number of zoning victories that essentially stymied plans. Ellington proposed bills through the years that would have undercut local government control in those situations. I ran into Bill Miller, one of the founders of the Americus Area Community Coalition, Thursday in downtown Lafayette and mentioned that race. Miller knew all about it. The only downside, he said: With Ellington in office, the Americus coalition knew to keep an eye out for what he might do next. Who will take lead now was the big question, Miller said. The Americus coalition, he said, was already doing its homework.
In case you missed it: Here were some of the first-take story lines from primary night:
For Tippecanoe County results: Here’s the latest file. The election board is expected to certify the election results May 13.
IN MEMORY OF SALLY SIEGRIST: News came over the weekend that Sally Siegrist, a former state representative from West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County Council member, had died. Funeral arrangements hadn’t been announced, as of Thursday. Speaking of the quarry fights (see: above), one of Siegrist’s high points in the Indiana House came during fights to keep bills from advancing that might have cleared the way for a mining operation near Americus. She countered Rep. Ellington’s proposed legislation and assorted machinations to slip language into bills to limit the county’s ability to block zoning for mining operations. Her work paid off on that. Salute for that.
CLOSING TIME FOR PROTECT PURDUE TESTING CENTER: The Purdue COVID-19 testing, set up in the Co-Rec before the fall 2020 semester as a key provision in reopening the West Lafayette campus during the pandemic, will close as of 4 p.m. May 13, the university announced Thursday. According to a Purdue release, testing for employees and students who have COVID symptoms or need a test for university-related travel will be available through the Center for Healthy Living and the Purdue Student Health Center. All other testing will have to be done at local pharmacies, health care providers or at-home tests. COVID-19 vaccines and boosters given at the testing site will move to the Center for Healthy Living and the Purdue Student Health Center, as well, after May 13. The move comes as Purdue prepares for a slower summer, after graduation ceremonies May 13-16. The move also comes as campus has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases and positivity rates in recent weeks. As of Thursday, the Protect Purdue COVID-19 dashboard reported 200 positive cases in the past seven days among students and staff. The positivity rate in that week was 24.2%. Tippecanoe County, overall, reported a seven-day average of 59 positive cases a day, according to the state’s database.
GRANT’S HOUSE CELEBRATION: The goal for this year’s annual event is to raise $185,000 to fund Grant’s House Summer Camp #54, a Wabash Center day camp that covers five days a week for the summer for kids with special needs. Grant’s House started as a tribute to Grant House, a McCutcheon High School graduate who died at 25. Donations in his name started the ball rolling and helped Wabash Center open Grant’s House, 1500 Salem St., a place that offers after-school programs, summer camp and life-skill support during the transition from school into adulthood. The Grant’s House Celebration is 6-10:30 p.m. Friday at the fairgrounds, 1010 Teal Road, featuring a fish and chicken fry, beer garden, silent auction and music by The Flying Toasters. For tickets and a look at items up for auction, here’s your link.
FOOD FINDERS’ BLUE JEAN BALL: … is back in person for 2022. The event – as the name implies, jeans and casual is the theme – is Food Finders Food Bank’s signature fundraiser, scheduled for Saturday, May 7, at the Beck Agricultural Center in West Lafayette. Food Finders, based in Lafayette, distributes more than 11 million pounds of food each year through nonprofit organizations and the food bank’s direct service program in its north-central Indiana region. For tickets and more information, including the event’s silent auction in progress now, go to www.food-finders.org/blue-jean-ball.
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