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Eckart out as commissioner

Harrison County Primary

May 14, 2008
In one of the smoothest Harrison County primary elections in recent years, unofficial results came in early and fast last Tuesday. The first results began circulating among those gathered at the Harrison County Court House just minutes after 7 p.m., about one hour after the polls closed.

By the time all 36 precincts had been counted (except for some provisional ballots cast at about 12 precincts) one race — County Commissioner District 2 on the Republican side — still was too close to call.

What voters did know is that J.R. Eckart, the two-term incumbent, would not be elected to a third term. Instead, 2,366 voters who cast Republican ballots left it a toss-up between Rhonda J. Rhoads, who opted to try to move from the county council to the commissioner's job, and Kenny Saulman, who has served previously both as a commissioner and a councilman. Four votes separated the two when the courthouse lights were turned off that night.

The other upsets at the polls were in the county coroner's race and the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees' race (see story, front page).

Here is a look at contested races (number of votes listed does not include any provisional ballots cast which have not been counted yet).

The District 2 commissioner's race on the Republican side was the closest race of the night and may result in an automatic recount because the final tally could finish with 10 votes or less between the two top vote-getters, which did not include Eckart, the incumbent.

Eckart, who was seeking his third term as commissioner, received 568 votes. His challengers — Rhoads and Saulman — were neck and neck, with Rhoads holding a slim lead, 815 votes to 811 votes, over Saulman. The winner won't be determined until the provisional ballots are counted.

The eventual winner will take on Democrat Carl (Buck) Mathes, who opted to throw his hat in the commissioners' race rather than seek re-election on the county council. He received 4,583 votes, making him the top vote-getter over Scott W. Hussung, 2,529 votes, and Donald Mathes, 1,754 votes.

In the Democrat District 1 commissioner's race, incumbent James E. Goldman defeated two opponents — former Commissioner Ed Emily and political newcomer Adam Uhl — by receiving 4,206 votes. Emily was second with 2,395 votes; Uhl finished with 2,328 votes.

Goldman will face Republican Phil Smith, who was uncontested in the primary. Smith received 1,735 votes yesterday.

In the at-large county council race on the Democrat ticket, the three candidates receiving the most votes in the nine-person field were incumbent Chris Timberlake, who is completing his first term on the council, with 4,215 votes; Richard Gerdon, who is new to politics and finished second with 3,844 votes; and Steve Haggard, a former county commissioner and councilman who received 3,735 votes.

The three Democrat nominees will be joined on the ballot in November by Republicans Jim Heitkemper, a former county commissioner who received 1,517 votes, and Marion E. Wallace, the county's veterans service officer who had 1,014 votes. (The Republicans have until noon on July 3 to appoint a third candidate). From that group, the top three vote-getters will be elected to the council.

In the coroner's race, Republican Ray Saylor defeated Steve Hamm, the current coroner, 1,135 to 1,003, and will face Rusty Sizemore, the Democrat chosen, in the general election.

Saylor's Democrat opposition Nov. 4 will be Sizemore, who overcame three opponents — Gilbert Fillmore, Melissa (Missy) McKim and Richard McKinstry. Sizemore received 3,571 votes. McKim was second with 3,117 votes; McKinstry had 856 votes; and Fillmore received 785 votes.

With current Harrison County Recorder Barbara Mathes unable to run for a third consecutive term for that office this year, the race for that office was wide open.

Democrat Carole M. Gaither, who previously served one term as county clerk, won over Steve Arnold, 5,330 votes to 3,331 votes.

On the Republican side, Barbara Best was "overwhelmed" by her win, with 1,181 votes to 969 votes, over challenger Teresa L. Hamm, who previously served as county recorder.

Roger D. Davis, who has been Harrison Superior Court Judge since Jan. 1, 1997, received the Democratic nomination to seek another term, defeating challenger Leah S. Fink by slightly more than 2,000 votes (Davis 5,607 votes; Fink 3,538 votes).

Davis will face Republican attorney John T. Evans, who was unopposed, in the general election in November. Evans received 1,830 votes from the 2,366 Republican voters.

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