More than 100 Republican hopefuls are vying for the 91 seats to be voted on in Elkhart County elections this year.
On the Democratic side there are just 10 hopefuls, underscoring the prevailing GOP dominance here.
The disparity has Mary Nisly, chairwoman of the Elkhart County Republican Party, bullish on prospects. To be exact, 108 Republicans are running for the varied posts, excluding political party leadership positions such as precinct committeemen.
"We're very Republican, so I'm not really worried about losing a seat from any of our offices," she said Monday, Feb. 10. "At this point, I'm not too worried about the Democrats."
Though Democrats may not pose a tough challenge, she said a challenge from an independent "might be a problem." And Jeff Petermann, chairman of the Elkhart County Libertarian Party, said the third party may field three or four local candidates in races this year, though campaigning probably won't begin in earnest until after the May 6 primary.
Shari Mellin, head of the Elkhart County Democratic Party, noted the difficulties in trying to recruit Democrats to run here.
"I do try to get candidates, but it's not all that easy," she said. Still, she's excited about Democratic prospects in the few races in which party reps are running.
The filing deadline for Democrats and Republicans passed last Friday, Feb. 7. The race at the top of the ticket will be for the 2nd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives held by Republican Jackie Walorski. A state senate seat and five state representative seats will also be up for election.
In all there are 91 posts Elkhart County voters will weigh in on, including the U.S. House spot. Eleven are state posts, including judges' seats and the Elkhart County prosecutor's position, and 10 more are Elkhart County government posts. Sixty-five are for township trustee or township board positions while two more each are for the Bristol and Wakarusa town councils.
Voters across Elkhart County will vote for some of the posts, while some posts serve only portions of the county.
SOME OF THE KEY RACES
Here are a few highlights of the coming races:
- U.S. House: Walorski, finishing her first term, is the only GOPer running for the U.S. House spot. On the Democratic side there are four hopefuls — Joe Bock, who has support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; Dan Morrison, who ran for the post in 2012; Bob Kern, who has run for many posts previously and now lives in Indianapolis, outside the district; and Douglas Carpenter from St. Joseph County. The primary for this post will be the only contested race on the Democratic ballot in Elkhart County, excluding party leadership positions.
- State Representative, District 48: Three Republicans are running for the District 48 seat in northwestern Elkhart County, to be vacated by incumbent Tim Neese, who plans to run for Elkhart mayor in 2015. The three are Doug Miller, who runs a home construction business; Jesse Bohannon, who works at an alternative school; and Adam Bujalski, a bank manager.
- State Representative, District 21: Incumbent Republican Tim Wesco will seek his third term in the District 21 post, which covers southern Elkhart and northwestern St. Joseph County. He'll be challenged by Democrat Jodi Buoscio, a teacher at Elkhart Memorial High School.
- State Representative, District 22: Incumbent Rebecca Kubacki, a Republican, faces an intra-party challenge from Curt Nisly, husband of Mary Nisly. David Kolbe is running as a Democrat for the District 22 post, which covers part of southern Elkhart County and much of Kosciusko County.
- Judge of Elkhart Superior Court 3: Four Republicans are vying for the seat, Teresa Cataldo, David Francisco, Andrew Hicks and Fay Schwartz. Incumbent Judge George Biddlecome isn't running for re-election.
- Elkhart County commissioner: Incumbent Frank Lucchese, seeking his third term in the District 1 seat, will face a challenge from Rick Easton, an Elkhart County Highway Department inspector. Both are Republicans.
- Elkhart County auditor: First-term incumbent Pauline Graff, a Republican, is facing challenges from two others within the party, Jim Erb and John Loos.
- Elkhart County recorder: First-term incumbent Jerry Weaver is also facing challenges from two other Republicans, Jennifer Doriot and Jessica Sanders.
- Township posts: Democrats are challenging incumbent Republicans for two township trustee spots. Democrat Charles Mumaw is seeking to unseat Republican Chuck Cheek for the Elkhart Township trustee position while Democrat Chad Crabtree is hoping to beat Republican Benny Russo for the Osolo Township trustee position.
'A LOT OF COMPLAINTS'
Mary Nisly, the Elkhart County Republican Party chairwoman, said she welcomes challenges by Republicans against other Republicans.
"When you have challenges, it keeps the incumbents or elected officials kind of on their toes," she said. Many incumbents have "done a good job, but I also hear a lot of complaints."
At this stage, she said she's not endorsing any Republicans in contested primary races. "I'm here for everybody," Nisly said.
Likewise, she'll take on the role of mom in her husband's race for the District 22 seat, she said, focusing on caring for the couple's kids while Curt Nisly vies for the post.
Also on the May 6 ballot will by races for Democratic precinct committeemen and Republican and Democratic State Convention delegates.