Party leaders struggle to fill ballot vacancies

ELKHART — Republican and Democratic parties alike are struggling to fill vacancies on ballots countywide as the Sunday deadline draws near.

Democrats still have nearly 30 to fill, while Republicans have seven vacancies ahead of the 2019 municipal elections. 

Republicans plan to caucus this week to fill vacancies on Elkhart and Goshen ballots. 

A joint caucus will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Elkhart County Republican Headquarters, 106 S. Main St., Goshen, to fill a total of five slots, Elkhart County Republican Chairman Dan Holtz said.

As of Monday, only one GOP candidate had filed to fill those positions.

In Goshen, Mark Huser filed to fill the District 4 Common Council Republican vacancy; if selected by the caucus, he will run against Democrat Megan Eichorn.

Holtz said the party will likely not be able to fill the Goshen mayoral or 5th District ballot vacancies unless candidates step forward soon.

In Goshen’s mayoral race, GOP candidate Terry Snyder passed away in April prior to the primary election. He would have run against incumbent Democratic mayor Jeremy Stutsman. Republicans are also looking for a District 5 Common Council candidate to run against Democrat Gilberto Perez.

In Elkhart, the District 4 Common Council seat remains uncontested, with incumbent Democrat Dwight Fish seeking another term. The District 5 seat, held by incumbent Democrat Brent Curry, also may remain uncontested.

“No one has stepped forward. I don’t think that’s unprecedented. Those two seats are held by incumbents in Elkhart,” Holtz said. “Generally those are easier seats for Democrats to win than Republicans.”

With four of the five GOP vacancies still unclaimed, Holtz urges anyone interested to call him at 574-238-6239.

On Tuesday, a Republican caucus in Wakarusa will fill an early vacancy created in the Office of Clerk Treasurer. The town’s incumbent, Fred Avery Jr., is leaving the position early after he was offered a position as county deputy auditor. Katie Fromer, who defeated Avery in the primary election, is expected to be appointed in the caucus. Fromer will still need to be voted into office during the November election, though the position so far is uncontested by Democrats.

In Millersburg, a ballot vacancy was created when 11-year incumbent Clerk-Treasurer Patricia Barhydt lost the Republican primary to MacKenzie Taylor. Barhydt’s husband, Steven Barhydt, an incumbent on the town’s council, then withdrew from his uncontested bid for re-election, Holtz said, creating the vacancy. 

The Democratic party is still seeking someone to place on the ballot for clerk-treasurer in Millersburg, and also to fill two at-large council seats.

“It may surprise people to know that local government lacks active participants,” Holtz said. “We have 24 people wanting to be president but we can’t fill the ballot – Republican or Democrat – for these local races. I wish people would investigate these seats and be more willing to serve.”

Holtz said both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party will be at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair to offer more information on how to get involved, but for this year’s races, the deadline to fill vacancies is noon Sunday.

On the Democratic side, county party Chairman Chad Crabtree has been given the authority by the party to slate candidates, but as of Monday only one person has been slated to fill the organization’s many vacancies.

Chuck Mumaw as been slated to run as a Democrat for one of two Goshen City Council at-large positions, against Republicans David Doherty and incumbent Bradd Weddell, and Democrat incumbent Julia King.

In Nappanee, no Democratic candidates have come forward, and Crabtree is urging any Democrats considering seeking the vote to contact him at 574-596-6750.

“We need to give the voters a choice,” Crabtree said. “We do need a balanced government for checks and balances.”

Other ballot vacancies to be filled in the Democratic party include Elkhart clerk treasurer, Elkhart city judge, Elkhart District 3 council, Goshen city judge and Goshen District 1 council.

If no Democratic candidates are slated in Nappanee and Wakarusa by noon Sunday, there will be no municipal general election in those towns, according to Chris Anderson, Elkhart County clerk of the circuit court. 

Nominees for Middlebury clerk-treasurer and council at-large will be chosen during a town convention on Aug. 1.

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