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Hamilton County council victories could boost spending

May 9, 2018

Victories for two county council candidates could mean Hamilton County will spend more on infrastructure projects in coming years.   

Of the three council candidates endorsed by the Fiscal Conservatives of Hamilton County, just one—incumbent Fred Glynn—prevailed.

Control of the council will be important as the county considers funding for significant road projects, an expansion of the jail and other projects. In recent years, the council—which holds the county’s purse strings and approves the budget—has been at odds with the commissioners, who serve as the executive board.

Most recently, the council and commissioners have failed to come to an agreement on how to fully fund a 256-bed jail expansion. The commissioners have asked the council to allocate all $17 million needed to complete the project. So far, the council has set aside $13 million, enough to add 120 beds immediately and build a shell for future expansion.

Incumbent Steve Schwartz beat Republican challenger Mark Hall, a fiscal conservative who said he’d keep the county commissioners’ spending in check. Ken Alexander beat Rick Sharp, another candidate endorsed by the fiscal conservative group, in the District 4 race.

Schwartz is well known for working with the county commissioners to move projects forward they deem necessary, even if they’re costly. In his re-election bid, he received campaign donations from all three commissioners. His opponent and the fiscal conservative group have called him a rubber-stamp candidate for the commissioners.

The commissioners also backed Alexander in the District 4 race.

Here’s a look at how races shook out.

County Commissioner

In the District 1 county commissioner race, incumbent Christine Altman prevailed with about 61 percent of the vote.

Altman, 63, an attorney at Altman Poindexter & Wyatt LLC in Carmel, was challenged by Matt Milam, an Orchard Park resident who served as longtime president of Concerned Citizens for Home Place, an organization founded in 2004 to contest Carmel’s plan to annex the small community in Clay Township.

She earned 17,599 votes to his 11,231.

Milam, 52, who works in freight transportation, ran on a promise he made to residents that serving as county commissioner would become his only job.

District 1 represents southwest Hamilton County, including Carmel. County commissioners oversee the county’s day-to-day operations, including supervising and maintaining county property, receiving bids and authorizing contracts, recommending to the county council the amount of salary to be paid to each county officer, and overseeing hiring of deputies and employees.

Altman, who is seeking a fifth term, previously told IBJ her longtime involvement in county government will be helpful as Hamilton County’s population continues to grow. Projections show by 2050, the county will grow to more than 500,000 residents.

No Democrats filed to run in the primary. The Hamilton County Democratic Party has a few weeks yet to pick a challenger.

County Council

Three Hamilton County Council seats were in play Tuesday, and two incumbents faced challengers.

In District 1, which encompasses part of Clay Township, incumbent Glynn was challenged by Sue Maki.

Glynn, who narrowly won the primary race with about 51 percent of the vote, faces Democrat Jeremy Eltz, who ran unopposed in the primary election, in November.

Glynn, a Carmel resident, was first elected to the county council four years ago.

Maki, a political newcomer who serves as the city of Carmel’s manager of environmental initiatives and education, had hoped to use her experience on community boards in Hamilton County to serve residents in District 1. She received about 49 percent of the vote.

In District 3, incumbent Schwartz, a four-term county council member, was challenged by Hall. The two led a heated race that culminated last week when Schwartz accused Hall’s wife of stealing and destroying his political signs. Ultimately, no criminal charges were filed in the incident.

District 3 includes Noblesville, Jackson and White River townships.

Schwartz won the primary with about 55 percent of the vote, having received 5,218 votes to Hall’s 4,276.

Also in District 3, Jeremy Hawk won the Democratic primary with 873 ballots cast in his favor (or roughly 55 percent) to Gregg Werling’s 716 votes.

Schwartz now faces Hawk in November.

Hawk previously told IBJ he sought election to give Democrat voters a choice.

In District 4, which represents Adams and Washington townships and part of Clay Township, four Republicans hoped to succeed Paul Ayers, who chose not to seek relection.

Alexander prevailed in the primary with about 35 percent of the vote. Christine Pauley followed with about 30 percent of the vote. Rick Sharp took 29 percent of ballots cast, while Sheldon Barnes received about 6 percent.

Alexander now faces Democrat William Howard II, who ran unopposed in the primary, in November.

In other Hamilton County races:

Dennis Quakenbush prevailed in the Republican primary for Hamilton County Sheriff, having received about 43 percent of votes.

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