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Primary election over; It's on to November

Fayette County Democratic Party Chair Tim Rose, right, introduces U.S. 6th District congressional candidate Jim Pruett to the party faithful at headquarters Tuesday. Pruett won the county but lost the district.

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

With only two contested local races on the ballot in Tuesday’s primary, both on the Democratic side, party headquarters took on a subdued tone that night.

The Fayette County Clerk’s office finalized numbers by 7:15 p.m., making the wait for results one of the shortest on record.

Incumbent Sheriff Joey Laughlin defeated a primary challenge from first-time candidate Wesley Pennington, 933 to 126. Laughlin will take on Fayette County Jail Corporal and Milton town marshal Jabin Collins in the general election.

In the other race, Donna Schroeder bested Jerry Pennington for the nomination to take on Republican John R. Clarke for the vacant District 3 County Council seat, 109-88.

The big race of the evening came for U.S. Senate on the Republican side for the right to take on Democrat Joe Donnelly.

Congressmen Luke Messer and Todd Rokita and businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun battled fiercely and Braun won Tuesday.

Statewide, Braun received 41 percent of the vote, compared to Rokita’s 30 percent and Messer’s 29 percent. In this county though, Messer got the better of the two with nearly 49 percent to Braun’s 28 and Rokita’s 23.

The race is drawing national attention as Democrats try to retake control of the Senate.

Fayette County Republicans cast 1,657 votes in the Senate race. On the Democratic side, the most votes cast in a single race came for sheriff, with 1,059 voting. Laughlin got 88 percent of the vote. Republican Collins received 1,273 votes for sheriff.

“We are going to continue to hit the streets and try to get more one on one with the voters,” Collins said. “We’re not letting up.”

The family and supporters did do some door-to-door contacts prior to the primary but not as much as he would have liked, he said. Plans are made to have volunteers do more this summer.

Laughlin said he is pleased with his margin of victory. For the General Election, “We will begin knocking on doors getting information out, telling people what we’ve done and what we plan to do,” he said. “I didn’t sign up for four years; I’ve got four more to finish, but that’s up to the voters.”

“The Democrats have got to work to get people to vote,” Tim Rose, Democratic Party chair, said. “We’ve lost races before when they thought someone would win an election and then lose. They can’t sit home and not get out and vote. That goes for both sides.”

“Jabin has to work,” said Vivian Himelick, GOP chair. “I was composing a letter to our candidates and committee, that ... at every little community event this summer we need to get out and shake hands and get ourselves known. We have Fair coming up and they need to be there every night talking to people.”

Messer’s Senate candidacy left an open seat in the 6th District which drew six Democratic candidates and five Republican candidates.

In the county, Jim Pruett received 37 percent of the Democrat vote, beating all the others by 10 percent. But Jeannine L. Lake won the district with 38.6 percent to Pruett’s 25.4 percent.

Pruett visited Fayette County Democratic Party headquarters shortly after the release of the final local count. 

“All I can do is thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said emotionally. “I’m so tired. I know we’ve won Scott County and I haven’t heard from Bartholomew County and that will be big. “

On the Republican side, Vice President Pence’s brother Greg easily defeated the field with 64.5 percent of the vote to Jonathan Lamb’s 23.6 percent. Pence got 70 percent of the vote in Fayette County.

Moving to the Indiana Statehouse, Republican District 55 Rep. Cindy Ziemke held off a challenge by Rush County County Commissioner Mark Bacon, 58 to 42 percent. At the present time, the Democrats do not have a candidate. The district includes Fayette County, which gave Ziemke 57 percent of the vote.

Local party chairs have work to do because each have some vacant slots on the ballot to fill before the June 30 deadline.

The Democrats have vacancies for auditor, prosecutor and two county council seats, Rose said.

Himelick said the GOP has to fill ballot positions for surveyor, District 1 Commissioner and District 2 Council. Someone will be running for the council seat but is not ready to make an announcement yet.

Rose said it is too bad only 18 percent voted because the county spends a lot of money to put on an election and the candidates spend a lot of money to have the nominations decided by so few.