The three-way race on the ballot for Bloomington’s city council District 3 seat wound up a close two-way contest between Democratic Party nominee Ron Smith and independent Nick Kappas. Independent Marty Spechler was a distant third.
Just 23 votes, or 2.4 percentage points, separated Smith from Kappas. Smith received 448 votes (46.3 percent), Kappas 425 votes (43.9 percent), and Spechler 95 votes (9.8 percent).
Of the seven precincts in District 3, Kappas won four of them. Kappas had 20 more votes than Smith among voters who cast ballots on Election Day—Kappas tallied 354 votes, compared to 334 for Smith. But Smith had a bigger advantage among voters who cast their ballots early—Smith got 114 of those votes compared to 71 for Kappas.
Reached by phone after the election Kappas said that he’d called Smith to congratulate him on his win. Speaking to local press at the headquarters of the Democratic Party on Madison Street, Smith said that he and Kappas had stood together for a while outside the polling place at University Elementary School on Election Day, and they’d agreed it would be important for them to continue to talk to each other, whoever won the race.
Kappas told The Beacon he’d formulated a plan, set a goal of getting more than 400 votes, executed his plan, and achieved that goal, even if he’d fallen short of the larger goal of wining the election. Kappas said he was proud of his volunteers, including his wife, Sophia. He described her as “amazing through all of this.”
Given the amount of support that he’d received, Kappas said he hoped that Smith would take Kappas’s campaign points seriously—citing environmental sustainability and infrastructure repair—as Smith represents District 3 on the city council.
Kappas is a 2010 grad of IU-SPEA and now works for Cook Medical. During the campaign, Kappas cited his experience as a current member of Bloomington’s plan commission and zoning board of appeals and his work as chair of the city’s environmental commission.
Smith’s campaign focused on addressing the needs of senior citizens. Smith retired from a career with the state’s Division of Aging and the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning. Smith now works as a care manager for Area 10 Agency on Aging.
Smith appeared to be picked by Spechler as the likely winner, when asked by The Beacon on Monday what his plans were for Election Day campaigning. That’s based on Spechler’s expectation that he would not himself win, and the kind of advice he offered his opponents:
I don’t expect to win, but I think I would be the best choice because of my experience and willingness to be an ‘any time’ councilmember for daytime meetings. … I hope my friend Ron Smith will quit his full-time job and devote himself to Council business throughout the day. I congratulate him and Nick Kappas for being willing to take on the responsibilities and hope Nick will continue his community concerns.
Asked on Election Night if he planned to quit his job, Smith said no. But he added that he was planning to work full time only until he would receive full benefits from Social Security, which was about another year. After that, Smith said he planned to reduce his working hours at his regular job.
Smith won the Democratic Party primary in May, after his opponent, Jim Blickensdorf in late March announced that he was discontinuing his city council campaign.
Spechler, professor emeritus of economics at Indiana University, was seeking to be re-elected to the city council having served from 2012 through 2015 as a Democrat. In 2015 he entered the Democratic Party primary, seeking re-election. That race was won by Allison Chopra, who did not seek re-election this year.
In 2018 Spechler was elected as a Democrat to the Bloomington Township Board, a post he would have had to resign if he’d won election to the city council.
It was Spechler’s service on the township board, having been elected to that post as a Democrat, that led to an internal party kerfuffle earlier this summer. Local Democratic Party leaders were perturbed that Spechler was running for the council seat as an independent, given that he was a sitting public official who’d won election as a Democrat.
Spechler filed a pre-election campaign finance form that indicated no money raised and no expenditures.
The 2020 Bloomington City Council will include the following nine members: