ANDERSON, Ind. — Four of the candidates not backed by the Madison County Republican Party in Tuesday’s primary believe the money spent by a local political action committee and absentee ballots affected the outcome.
For the first time in almost four decades, the Madison County Republican Party endorsed a slate of candidates for county offices. Five of the slated candidates were victorious. The key contests were for the treasurer’s office and for three district seats on the Madison County Council.
Starting six years ago, Republicans elected new members to the council: Mike Gaskill, Mike Phipps, David McCartney and Rick Gardner. Following Tuesday’s primary only one of them — Rick Gardner — remains in contention for a seat on the council.
Of the others, Phipps was elected to an at-large seat in 2008, losing in 2012 and Gaskill was appointed to fill a spot left vacant by Larry Crenshaw early in 2012 and also lost that year. Gardner and McCartney were both elected to district council seats in 2010.
Former councilman Gaskill has been involved in a feud with GOP chairman Russ Willis for the past four years. That feud started when Gaskill, Phipps, McCartney and Gardner were elected to the council and voted to repeal the county wheel tax. They also led the change of spending priorities in the county budget.
Now, Gaskill said, the problem facing Willis following the primary is party unity.
“Russ (Willis) went negative,” Gaskill said. “It would be easier to unite the party if the endorsements were based on policy differences.”
On Tuesday, Steve Sumner, who had been endorsed by the GOP organization, defeated former Councilman Mike Phipps by 100 votes in District 2.
“What really did it was our hard work,” Sumner said of his victory. “We had a lot of volunteers.”
Sumner said Wednesday that he heard from voters that they were tired of what had been taking place on the county council.