One of the nine seats on the Bloomington plan commission has been vacant since around Jan. 6, when the four-year term for Nick Kappas expired, and the city’s mayor, Democrat John Hamilton, decided not to reappoint him.
The spot held by Kappas is one of the five seats on the nine-member plan commission that are expected to be appointed by the mayor.
In a departure from that expectation, a press release issued Thursday afternoon, by Monroe County Republican Party chair, William Ellis, says the GOP leader has made the plan commission appointment to fill the vacancy.
The GOP chair’s pick, according to the release, is Andrew Guenther, who’s current chair of the city’s environmental commission. Last year Guenther was a Republican candidate for the District 2 city council, a race that was won decisively by Democrat Sue Sgambelluri.
This past week’s candidate filings for offices of local interest brought the total of confirmed contested races in the Democratic Party’s primary elections to three.
Declaring her candidacy on Friday for the state senate’s District 40 seat was former Monroe County councilor Shelli Yoder. She joins the Democratic Party’s state chair, John Zody, in a bid for the party’s nomination to succeed incumbent Democrat Mark Stoops. Last year, Stoops announced he would not be seeking re-election.
Three candidates appear on November’s general election ballot for the seat representing Bloomington’s District 3 on the nine-member city council. One is the Democratic Party nominee, Ron Smith. The other two are independent candidates—Marty Spechler and Nick Kappas.
If Spechler or Kappas is elected, it would make District 3 special, because either candidate would be the first ever independent to win election to the Bloomington city council.
But that potential historical distinction is not what Sue Sgambelluri meant, when she spoke up at the Monroe Democratic Party headquarters during a caucus held Monday night: “First, I want to congratulate District 3 on having replaced District 2 as the most interesting race this year. Well done!”
Sgambelluri is the Democratic Party’s nominee in District 2, facing Republican Andrew Guenther.
Sgambelluri’s line got its intended laugh among the three dozen or so precinct representatives. They had gathered to discuss Spechler’s candidacy for the city council as an independent, while sitting in a different elected office as a Democrat.
Spechler was elected to the Bloomington Township board in 2018 as Democrat, a position he currently holds. (Townships overlap with the city.) That situation led to the convening of the Monday night caucus.
A single question was printed on the written agenda Monday night:
Should a sitting Democrat be allowed, without denouncement by the county party, to run as an independent against another Democrat in a general election?
No vote was taken at the caucus—the occasion was intended only for discussion. A consensus emerged that the party should make clear to the public who its nominee is: Ron Smith.
At Monroe County’s election headquarters at the intersection of 7th and Madison streets, election supervisor Karen Wheeler spoke with The Beacon around quarter to noon on Monday. Up to then, she said, no independent candidates for Bloomington mayor had turned in the minimum 522 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
A short while later, after confirming the clock read 12:01, Wheeler declared the deadline expired.
Write-in candidates have until noon Wednesday, July 3, to file their paperwork.
The Republican Party is not fielding a candidate for mayor.
That means if no candidate registers as a write-in for the mayor’s race, incumbent John Hamilton is certain to serve as mayor for another four years, starting in 2020, even though no vote for that office will be held.
When maps of election results in recent Indiana statewide races are color-shaded—with reds or blues where Republicans or Democrats won more votes—the Hoosier state is a sea of red with some blue islands.
The few patches of blue for Indiana are consistent with a robust national pattern: Rural counties are stronger for Republicans; counties with higher urban populations, especially those with universities, are stronger for Democrats.