By MATT KOESTERS
The 2012 elections in Clark and Floyd counties took center stage Wednesday at the Jeffersonville River Stage.
Candidates from both counties took turns introducing themselves to each other and voters at the 2012 League of Women Voters Candidate Forum, a forum that was largely gloves-on thanks to the lack of a U.S. congressional debate, which had been a mainstay of previous League forums.
Republican incumbent Todd Young has agreed to meet Democratic challenger Shelli Yoder for two debates in this election cycle. Yoder had previously lobbied for 13 debates, one in each county in the 9th Congressional District. Neither Yoder nor Young were present Wednesday.
“It’s very disappointing that a candidate decides that the two most populous counties won’t have access to a debate,” said Barbara Anderson with the League. “Accessibility to voters is what we’re all about.”
Anderson said that Yoder had agreed to the debate, but Young’s campaign had disregarded requests for a debate in Clark County.
Each local candidate spent a brief amount of time highlighting their experience and talked about why they wanted to run for office. But no one really ever took a shot at their opponents.
Although State Rep. Ed Clere (R) wasn’t on hand, his opponent, Democratic challenger Sharon Grabowski, explained that her 31 years as a teacher and administrator gave her the know-how to work in Indianapolis.
“I learned to bargain through consensus (as a teacher),” she said. She went on to say she hopes to do the same thing in the state house.
“The citizens of Floyd County need a voice in Indianapolis,” she said.
CLARK COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Experience was the theme of the Republican candidates for Clark County Commissioners, while the Democratic incumbents touted improvements to infrastructure made during the current term.
Jack Coffman, the Republican candidate for commissioner in District 2, said his time running a chimney-sweep business and working as a member of the Clark County Council gave him the experience to do the job.
“I’ve always had that background of total service,” Coffman said.
His opponent, Commissioner Les Young, said the construction of Star Hill Road in Borden will bring new jobs to the county.
“If you don’t have the infrastructure, they won’t come,” Young said.
Young said while the county had been having money troubles, the commissioners had worked to “streamline” costs.
Holding his grandson in his arms, Commissioner Ed Meyer pointed to the arrival of Amazon to Clark County as evidence of the commissioners’ success in advancing the county’s economic fortunes, while his opponent in District 1, Rick Stephenson, pointed to his finance background as a 37-year veteran of the U.S. Army and Army Reserves as an indicator of his future success as a commissioner.
CLARK COUNTY COUNCIL
Two Republicans and three democrats running for at-large seats on the Clark County Council were on hand to talk about their candidacy.
Ron Brogan, a Republican who is running for office for the first time, said his experience in the banking industry and his educational background — he has an MBA — would help him work to balance the county’s budget.
“I feel my qualifications can add something to the council,” Brogan said.
Fellow Republican candidate and Clark County Tea Party Patriots co-founder Kelly Khuri brought a message of accountability to the proceedings.
“If you vote for me, you will have a work horse and not a show horse,” she said.
Democrat Brenda Ross said she would use her business experience to cut waste and unethical spending.
“We’ve done a lot of spending, a lot of give-aways, and we need to stop that,” Ross said.
Incumbent Democrat Kevin Vissing said he ran for county council as a challenge to himself, and that he had enjoyed fighting to “put out fires” alongside his fellow council members.
Susan Popp, a former council member, said she has the experience to work with the council and commissioners.
“I think we all want to do what’s best for the county,” Popp said.
GREATER CLARK COUNTY SCHOOLS
The closest anyone came to slighting an opponent was Dale Moss, a candidate running out of Greater Clark County Schools’ 5th District, who alluded to division and dysfunction on the current board.
“If I get elected, I’m going to consider the other six members [of the board] my allies and friends,” Moss said.
His opponent, current GCCS board President Christina Gilkey, pointed out that with current board member Ernie Gilbert not running for re-election, she will become one of the two longest-tenured board members.
“It’s a very, very complex office,” Gilkey said. “In my opinion, experience is important.”
Running in the 6th District to replace Gilbert are Alice Dorman Butler and Jerry White. Both candidates touted their professional experience as their main selling points. Butler is a certified public accountant, while White is the owner of an upholstery business and several rental properties.
Butler said her experience performing audits made her ideally suited to identifying opportunities for savings.
“If you know anything about auditors, they ask a lot of questions and they dig to find the truth,” Butler said.
In the 7th District, Becka Christensen is defending her seat against Teresa Bottorff-Perkins, who is running for school board for the first time. Bottorff-Perkins said her 40 years of experience as a teacher, counselor, principal and administrator made her the ideal candidate for the board, and added that she had been endorsed by the teachers of GCCS.
“I’d like to say that I can walk the walk and talk the talk, no matter where I’m walking or when I’m talking,” Bottorff-Perkins said.
Christensen said her greatest accomplishment was keeping Maple Elementary open.
“I’m very, very, extremely proud of the work that I’ve done in this community,” Christensen said.