Incumbents have their night in political, school board races

Republican party candidates winning their seats on Tuesday, Nov. 6, gather for a photo at the Cottage Event Center in Roanoke.
Republican party candidates winning their seats on Tuesday, Nov. 6, gather for a photo at the Cottage Event Center in Roanoke. Photo by Andre B. Laird.

Republican Tom Wall won a second term as a Huntington County commissioner in an election that saw voters turning out in such large numbers that extra voting machines were sent out to two precincts.

In the only other county-level races, incumbents Scott Hoffman and Rex Baxter beat back challenges to return to the Huntington County Community School Corporation's board of trustees.

"I'm very happy," Wall said as he was leaving the Huntington County Republicans' election night gathering in Roanoke on Tuesday, Nov. 6. "I have a lot of good supporters across the county."

Wall won 61 percent of the vote to defeat Democrat Kenny Zuk, whose campaign maintained that Wall had lost the trust of voters after being indicted on misdemeanor battery charges. Wall said the charges are untrue.

Wall says he's just looking forward to continuing to serve county residents in continuing economic development efforts and in moving toward a combined emergency dispatch system.

"I'm just very happy to serve Huntington County another four years as commissioner," said Wall, who was elected from the commissioners' third district.

During the celebration in Roanoke, Wall thanked his supporters, but said there was still more work to be done.

"This win means I get to serve the people of Huntington County for four more years," he said. "We already have a great team of hardworking people in place and not just in the commissioners' office, but economic development as well. We need to continue to work together and show the other counties what Huntington County is made of."

Hoffman won almost 59 percent of the vote to return as first district representative on the school board, defeating challenger Thom Duncan.

"My top priority is the kids in this community," Hoffman said. "I look forward to working with all the new board members we're going to get and the former board members, too. Just really excited about the direction our school corporation is going in.

"I just want to tell everybody ‘thank you.' I really appreciate the support I have and I'll continue to work for the people of this county."

Baxter won a close race in the seventh district, winning almost 51 percent of the vote over challenger Ryan Wall.

"I'm thankful the people put their trust in me for another four years," Baxter said. "It's been an honor, really, for me to serve on the school board and get things going the way they are and I think we're headed in the right direction."

Baxter said that while keeping the schools' budget in line is a continuing concern, he's also beginning to have second thoughts about equipping every student with an iPad.

"I'm beginning to rethink my decisions on iPads," Baxter said. "We're going to have to do something about these and I'm not sure what yet. I'm not the only board member so I'm sure there will be other good ideas. But when it comes to putting more in the schools, it's going to be difficult for me to do."

Sarah Kyle was unopposed in the school board's sixth district and will succeed Dr. Jennifer Goff in that seat. Goff did not seek re-election.

Other unopposed candidates for county-level offices who made their wins official on Nov. 6 are Thomas Hakes, circuit court judge; Brenda Hamilton, treasurer; Philip Zahm, coroner; Larry Buzzard, second district county commissioner; and Shane Bickel, John E. Hacker and Jaime Miller, at-large representatives on the Huntington County Council. All are Republicans.

Brenda Hamilton, county treasurer, said that although there was some relief by running unopposed, she was excited to continue to work for the people of Huntington as treasurer.

Party Chairman Angie Garner said the party has a bright future.

"We had a great group of people on the ballot," she stated. "It's been a privilege to work with them and those that will be added, I am looking forward to working with them and hearing their ideas as well."

Garner however, said she was unsure of the role she will play. She is on the back end of a three-year term after filling in for Kris Underwood.

"My term ends in March and I'm still thinking about whether or not I will run for re-election," Garner said. "I want to make sure I have the time to devote to the needs of the party, so I'll talk with my family and we'll see where it leads."

She added that she felt encouraged by the increase in younger voters who were more educated and excited about the voting process than in years prior.

"It was refreshing to hear college-aged kids talk so strongly about their beliefs and who they were going to vote for," she said.

State Rep. Dan Leonard appeared to be winning his quest for re-election in the 50th district, which includes all of Huntington County and parts of Wells and Allen counties.

Leonard, running against Democrat Mike Wallin, won 73 percent of the votes in Huntington County.

In Wells County, Leonard won by about the same margin, ending the night with almost 72 percent of the vote total.

Allen County election officials had not completed their count by press time, but a partial count showed Leonard with a commanding lead with about 69 percent of the vote.
The 2012 election drew 16,002 voters, totaling 63.43 percent of the county's 25,229 registered voters.

The total turnout was down slightly from the previous presidential election year in 2008, when the turnout of 16,558 voters represented 66.08 percent of the total number of registered voters.

However, the number of people voting early increased from four years ago. This year, 3,996 people voted prior to Nov. 6 either in person at the county clerk's office, by mail or during a visit by the Traveling Board. That's up from 3,011 in 2008.

The almost 1,000 additional people who voted early held up tabulation of votes from machines used on Election Day. While polls closed at 6 p.m., it took the election board more than an hour to complete their count of the early ballots.

County Clerk Kittie Keiffer said there was no problem with the early votes; it was just that there were so many of them.

"The sheer numbers alone," she said. "It just took longer."

Waits of an hour or more were reported early in the day at two polling places - the American Legion in Roanoke, which serves all four Jackson Township precincts, and the Mt. Etna United Methodist Church, which serves Lancaster, Polk, Wayne and Jefferson townships.

Election board member Lori Guy said she and fellow board member Marvin McNew went to Roanoke to assist pollworkers there. She said the pair spent about a half-hour at the Roanoke polling place, helping to process the voters.

Keiffer said an extra voting machine was sent to the American Legion in Roanoke and another to the church in Mt. Etna to relieve the congestion.

Voter Registration Clerk Pam Fowler said long lines were reported at several other precincts at various times during the day.

For the most part though, "everybody was pretty steady," she said. "There were no problems with the machines."
Pollworker David Taylor, who assisted voters at the Huntington County Courthouse, said his polling place had one slack period, at about 1:30 in the afternoon.

"Other than that it was busy," said Taylor, who's been working the polls for 10 years. "It was busier than I've ever seen it."

Although there were no major problems, pollworkers weren't reticent to call in with questions during the day.

"We had probably a thousand phone calls," Keiffer said.
"Every five minutes, cell phones and office phones."

Calls concerned people who showed up at the wrong precinct and didn't know where to vote; people who had moved or changed their name since the last presidential election and hadn't updated their information in the clerk's office; and similar questions. However, only two provisional ballots were cast, she said.

The count was completed at 8:15 p.m., two hours and 15 minutes after the polls closed.

Complete caption: Republican party candidates winning their seats on Tuesday, Nov. 6, are (front row from left) Brenda Hamilton, country treasurer; Shane Bickel, county council at-large; Sarah Kyle, school board District 6; and Jaime Miller, county council at-large; and (back row from left) Dan Leonard, state representative District 50; Philip Zahm, county coroner; Tom Wall, county commisisoner District 3; Larry Buzzard, county commisioner District 2; and John E. Hacker, county council at-large. The Republican Party met at the Cottage Event Center, in Roanoke.