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City races shape up

BY Spencer Durham - sdurham@chronicle-tribune.com

Primary candidate filings closed Friday and another election season has arrived.

Voters who head to the polls for the primary in spring and general election in November will choose who will represent them at the municipal level. Mayors and city/town council seats are up for grabs.

In Grant County, a lot will be happening in Marion where city government will take on a different look in 2020. The only question is how different.

A mayoral race with discontent

Though he announced his intention to run for reelection a year ago, Mayor Jess Alumbaugh waited until Thursday before formally filing for the Democrat ballot and will face ample competition from within his party and across the aisle with six other candidates vying for the mayoral seat.

Alumbaugh will be challenged in the primary by City Council members Lynn Johnson and Henry Smith as well as one of the mayor's Board of Works appointees, Joselyn Whitticker.

Democratic County Chair Terry Stodghill said he was hoping for more party support for the incumbent mayor.

“The mayor's race is going to be interesting,” he said.

Johnson and Smith both said they decided to run because of the current administration.

Johnson said the administration “is not doing enough” and “not working hard enough.”

Smith said he had been considering running for the last three years. When asked his reason, he responded, “This administration.”

Whitticker, who is a former Council member and was the Democratic nominee for State Auditor last year, said she also has some “concerns.” She said more transparency is needed in city government, noting recent State Board of Accounts audits that flagged the city for providing union benefits to non-union police and fire leadership.

“I have concerns about some things that have happened,” Whitticker said.

Alumbaugh did not return phone calls left for him.

On the Republican side, Council members Steve Henderson and David Homer are joined by Ray Glass, who is running for mayor for the fourth time.

“I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it,” he said.

Glass said he's tired of seeing rundown homes and would like to provide more opportunities for kids.

A (largely) new City Council in 2020

Marion City Council will have some new faces with Henderson, Homer, Johnson and Smith all running for mayor. Incumbents Brad Luzadder (at-large) and Deb Cain (District 6) will also face competition in November.

District 1, Henderson's seat, has four candidates, three Republicans and one Democrat.

Charles Moon is one GOP candidate who has thrown his hat in the ring. Moon has run for office before and said his background in teaching political science in college gives him valuable knowledge as a possible council member.

“I feel like I can give something to the city,” he said.

It looks as if one former Chronicle-Tribune employee will replace another on the GOP ballot for District 2.

Alan Miller told the C-T he decided not to run for reelection having already retired from Indiana Wesleyan University last year and his wife's pending retirement.

Michael Cline is the lone candidate to file for the seat. He is a former editorial page editor at the C-T.

Miller said he reached out to Cline when he knew he wasn't going to file.

“He is my endorsed successor,” Miller said.

Jim Brunner (R-District 3) and Don Batchelor (D-District 5) are unopposed.

Retired Marion firefighter Brian Cowgill is running for an at-large seat as a Republican.

“I want to run things honestly,” he said. “I see things I don't necessarily agree with.”

Cowgill retired from Marion Fire Department after being hurt in the line of duty but said he is still active with MFD as the “point man” for fundraising for Fire Station No. 1.

Of the nine-member council there could be as many as seven new faces next year.

Fervor in Fairmount

Fairmount voters will decide three council seats this year. There are seven candidates who have filed, six of whom are Republicans.

“Enthusiasm is a great word for it,” said Darren Reese, county GOP chair.

Reese said the turnout is due to candidates wanting to address the “direction of the community,” and a diverse party with different ideas.

Incumbents Carolyn Earnest (R), John Metzger (R) and Minerva Sickman (D) have all filed. They are joined by Republicans Curtis Cloud, Ryan Gossett, Jennifer Moon and Karen Pollen.

Across the rest of the county

Both party chairs expressed satisfaction with candidate turnout in Gas City. Democratic incumbents on the City Council are all running for reelection. In addition, P. David Huffman (R) is also running for reelection. Republican candidate Donald Clark is unopposed and running for Council member Bill Rock's seat.

Rock is running for Gas City mayor as an independent. He will face Mayor Larry Leach in the November election.

“I'm real happy with what's happening in Gas City,” Stodghill said. “Some people have stepped up in Van Buren (too).”

Democrats running in Van Buren include Council member Tony Manry and Clerk/Treasurer Michelle Sexton.

Jonesboro Mayor Bob McNutt is running for reelection and is unopposed.

There will be a Democratic race for Joneboro's District 3 council seat between incumbent Robert Couse and Rex Maynard.

Some municipalities are searching for candidates. Sweetser and Swayzee had no candidates file for Clerk/Treasurer or any council seats. Three of Upland's five council seats are up for grabs, though only incumbent Heath Crouch (District 1) has filed.

Stodghill said the Sweetser and Swayzee areas are heavily Republican and finding Democratic candidates is especially challenging. Reese on the other hand said a lot of the candidates in those municipalities are independent.

Independent candidates can file up until July 1.

The primary election is May 7. General election is Nov. 5.

The C-T will have much more election coverage in the coming weeks and months, including more extensive interviews with candidates.