ELKHART — Fifteen hopefuls for county, state and judicial office crowded into a local bar here, offering their take on everything from school funding to roads.
The event, a candidate forum co-sponsored by the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and The Elkhart Truth, brought together candidates for the District 48 seat in the Indiana House, the Elkhart County Board of Commissioners and the Elkhart Superior Court 3 judgeship. Also on hand were those vying for Elkhart County auditor and Elkhart County recorder.
No huge surprises emerged, but the candidates sought to distinguish themselves, spell out what sets each apart as the May 6 primary approaches. The fast-paced, two-hour gathering, called the Pitch and Pull and attended by supporters of the varied hopefuls, was held at Iechyd Da Brewing, a local brewery and eatery.
With no local races contested among Democrats, all the candidates on hand were Republicans.
District 48, Indiana House: The three candidates for the Elkhart County seat are Doug Miller, Jesse Bohannon and Adam Bujalski, and one distinguishing point was on the referendums to raise property taxes in the Elkhart and Concord school districts. Reps from the two school districts seek the hikes to augment transportation and capital funding and the questions will be on the May 6 ballot.
Miller and Bujalski both expressed support for the proposals. In backing the measures, Miller said he starts by asking himself what's best for kids. The "obvious answer," he concludes, is to support the referendum questions.
Bujalski noted that students are starting to suffer and also touted the import of things like art programs.
Bohannon, by contrast, noted that other governmental units and the general public have had to do without in light of the recent recession. Having to make spending cuts "is the reality right now" and schools should have to make those sorts of tough decisions as well.
Bohannon also distinguished himself, repeatedly emphasizing his conservatism. "I'm going because the conservative group in the (Indiana) House needs more help," he said.
Incumbent Rep. Tim Neese, also a Republican, isn't seeking re-election to the District 48 spot.
Elkhart Superior Court 3: The four candidates are Teresa Cataldo, David Francisco, Andrew Hicks and Fay Schwartz. They covered everything from sentencing to the best means to evaluate judges. Incumbent George Biddlecome isn't seeking re-election.
Elkhart County Board of Commissioners, District 1: Two-term incumbent Frank Lucchese is facing a challenge from Rick Easton, an engineer in the Elkhart County Highway Department. They both cited the import of funding to maintain roads and keeping county workers' wages competitive to prevent turnover.
Also on hand were the three hopefuls for Elkhart County auditor, incumbent Pauline Graff, Jim Erb and John Loos, and the three candidates for Elkhart County recorder, incumbent Jerry Weaver, Jessica Sanders and Jennifer Doriot.