By DAVID A. MANN
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Jeffersonville Republican Ron Grooms was elected to the Indiana Senate’s District 46 seat Tuesday with 21,052 votes, or 52.6 percent. He beat Democratic Floyd County Commissioner Chuck Freiberger, who had 18,971 votes, or 47.4 percent.
He’ll represent Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany at the Statehouse.
In Senate District 45 — which covers parts of eastern Clark County, including Charlestown and Henryville, and six other counties — Republican Jim Smith defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Jim Lewis. Overall vote totals were not available in that race.
In Clark County, Smith got 10,343, or 56 percent of the vote. Lewis received 8,132, or about 44 percent. Both men are from Charlestown.
“What a ride this has been,” Grooms said as results came in Tuesday night.
“This is, in my lifetime, undoubtedly what would have to be one of the pinnacles, one of the great thrills of my life to be able to represent this community [Clark County] or Floyd County as a state senator.”
He called it a great opportunity and a great time to represent the community.
“They want a conservative voice, they want someone who has a business background, they want someone that’s a proven community leader.”
He named the budget and education issues as the top priorities for the senate next session.
“We’ve got a big challenge.”
Freiberger said he wished his opponent luck with the new position.
“It was just a Republican landslide,” he said.
Grooms, 66, is a member of the Jeffersonville City Council and Freiberger, 50, is a member of the Floyd County Commissioners. Freiberger said he’d stay with that role.
During both campaigns, both candidates flagged jobs creations as a top priority, when the state legislature reconvenes in January. The two also sparred on the use of tolls to fund new bridges over the Ohio River — Grooms said he was open to the idea, Freiberger was against it.
The seat was up for grabs this year as incumbent Sen. Connie Sipes, a Democrat, decided not to seek re-election. In addition to Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany, Indiana Senate’s district 46 seat covers Georgetown and Floyds Knobs.
A district over, the issues were much the same for Smith and Lewis. However, the race was a different one.
Smith, 44, a former member of the Clark County Council, unseated a 34-year incumbent in defeating Lewis.
The race was called late and Smith didn’t hear about the victory until a reporter’s call.
“Holy cow,” he said, adding it was exciting to have beat a such a long-serving member of the senate. The interview was cut short because Smith had other calls coming in.
Senate District 45 is largely rural, including parts of Clark, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Scott, Switzerland, and Washington Counties. Communities in the district include Charlestown, Henryville, Hanover and Scottsburg.
The wins by Grooms and Smith add two new republican seats to an already GOP-dominated chamber of the Indiana State Legislature.
The two are now tasked with working alongside fellow legislators to adopt a state budget, which is due by April. The state’s budget forecasts — showing deficits in the next two fiscal years — are a grim reminder of the economic climate. Figuring out a fix for the state’s insolvent state unemployment fund will also be high atop the to-do list for the next session.