The Herald Bulletin

Evening Update

Local Politics

May 6, 2014

Mellinger edges Bell by fewer than 50 votes

Dunham nabs victory over Hanna in reversal of 2010 result

ANDERSON, Ind. — Forty-eight votes.

That's how many separated Democratic sheriff primary candidates Scott Mellinger and Maj. Brian Bell after all the votes were counted Tuesday. In a cycle with sparse election turnout at only about 16 percent, Mellinger, the former sheriff, edged Bell, the current No. 2 man at the Madison County Sheriff's Department. Madison County Commissioner Jeff Hardin, a third Democratic candidate, took 614 votes.

The razor-thin margin of 3,587 to 3,539 overshadowed another close race among the Republican primary candidates for sheriff. Anderson Board of Public Safety President Bruce Dunham defeated former Elwood Chief of Police Sam Hanna in a flip of results from four years ago when Hanna moved on to the general election.

Dunham took a plurality with 45 percent to Hanna's 38 percent, winning by 473 votes. Newcomer Tony Boze, who has worked for the U.S. Marine Corps and the Noblesville Sheriff's Department, nabbed 17 percent of the GOP pie with 1,120 votes.

Both victors said they would take short respites before hitting the campaign trail again in preparation for the Nov. 4 general election.

Mellinger dedicated the victory to his mother, who just recently passed away after a bout with cancer. He acknowledged that he will have to win over a lot of people who voted for Bell in the primary.

"Brian and I get along very well, and we've talked about how we're going to try to continue to get along into the summer and the fall," Mellinger said. "There's no reason to believe we won't be on the same team in the fall."

The two worked together at the department while Mellinger served two terms as sheriff in the 1990s. Bell, who has served as current Sheriff Ron Richardson's major for seven years, called the loss heartbreaking, but said Mellinger ran a clean race throughout. He said he wouldn't contest the results.

"We knew it'd be close. He was a gentleman throughout, and I wish him the best," Bell said.

Hardin couldn't be reached for comment after the results were finalized.

Dunham admitted he would have to broaden his reach to not only the people who stumped for Hanna, but also Democrats if he wants to win in November. The last time a non-Democratic candidate held the office was more than three decades ago.

"I have to be a candidate for the entire county. I want to do whatever I can to mend whatever fences we need to mend, get back on track and go from there," Dunham said. "[Mellinger] has a good following, but I think we're continuing to grow. We have to put our best foot forward."

Hanna said he was disturbed by the low voter turnout. After completing his fourth sheriff campaign as a Republican, the longtime Madison County Sheriff's Department detective said he was going to keep his options open for the future.

"I feel like I still have a lot to contribute to Madison County," Hanna said.

Boze, who was making his first foray into politics, said the opportunity was a blessing and he met a lot of people throughout the campaign. He said he would continue to work hard for the GOP and support Dunham into the general election.

Like Jack Molitor on Facebook and follow him @aggiejack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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