ANDERSON – For the first time in nearly four decades the Madison County Republican Party has endorsed candidates in the May 6 primary.
The slating of candidates in a number of local races is a result of the ongoing dispute between Russ Willis, party chairman, and former county council member Mike Gaskill.
Gaskill has been recruiting support from the Madison County tea party organizations in an attempt to unseat several incumbents.
The war of words heated up at the annual Lincoln Day Dinner when Willis described the challengers as Gaskill candidates and were giving the tea party a bad name.
The Republican Party has also printed fliers for each council district and includes the party-backed candidates for treasurer, clerk, recorder and commissioner.
Mike Gaskill said the endorsements are not a surprise to anyone.
"There will be a lot of precinct committeemen that will be unhappy with the decision to slate," he said. "There should have been a straw poll vote of the precinct committeemen as to who the party would slate.
"This is not a Republican Party leadership and tea party struggle," Gaskill said. "None of these candidates came to a tea party meeting before they filed their declarations of candidacy."
The local Republican Party has endorsed the challengers to incumbent Treasurer Kelly Gaskill, incumbent David McCartney seeking re-election to the District 1 seat on the county council, and incumbent Rick Gardner running for a second term in District 4 on the county council.
Candidates endorsed by the Madison County Republican Party and their opponents are: Commissioner Steffanie Owens being challenged by John Smith; treasurer, Micah Mitchell against Gaskill; Clerk Darlene Likens challenged by Tim Nardoni; Recorder Linda Smith being challenged by Mike Miller; Council District 1, Tim Shepherd running against McCartney; Steve Sumner in District 2 against former councilman Mike Phipps; and Anthony Emory against incumbent Gardner.