Tuesday, May 07, 2002

Indiana election a snoozer


Turnout may challenge apathy record

The Associated Press

        INDIANAPOLIS — Turnout was expected to be light today as voters in Indiana cast primary election ballots for Congress, the General Assembly and county judges, prosecutors and sheriffs.

        Polls opened at 6 a.m. local time and were to close at 6 p.m., bringing an end to a relatively sleepy primary election season that has featured no statewide race.

        Political pollster Brian Vargus said he expected very low turnout, perhaps rivaling the primary election two years ago, when a record-low 18 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

        “There is not much excitement from John Q. Public that is evident,” Mr. Vargus said Monday. “I've seen very little of it, I've heard few people talking about it and there even seem to be fewer yard signs around.”

        Mr. Vargus said he saw an outside potential for two surprises, one of them being the Republican congressional primary between incumbent Rep. Mark Souder and Paul Helmke, a former three-term mayor of Fort Wayne, in the state's new 3rd District in northeastern Indiana.

        “It would be an upset if Helmke won, but it's worth watching,” Mr. Vargus said.

        He also said Jeff Drozda of Westfield had potential to beat incumbent Republican state Sen. Steve Johnson of Kokomo in Senate District 21, “although Johnson has spent a lot of money and should be OK.”

        A year ago, it looked as if the 4th Congressional District would be a battleground, with incumbent Republicans Steve Buyer and Brian Kerns fighting aggressively for a single seat. But the campaign that emerged was relatively sedate and polite.

        Indiana lost one of its 10 congressional seats after the 2000 Census. When new maps were drawn, the new 4th District was restructured to span from White County in the north, through Hendricks and western Marion County and south to Lawrence County. Mr. Buyer and Mr. Kerns each claimed the district as their own.

        Joining the two incumbents is Republican state Sen. Mike Young of Indianapolis and three little-known GOP candidates.

        Although at least one of the incumbents will lose today, the new 4th District is considered such strong GOP territory that no Democrat filed for the primary. The party plans to pick a candidate by June 30, but it likely will do so without high hopes of winning the seat in November.

        Of 250 potential contested primaries in the General Assembly, only 35 districts have competition — 29 in the House and six in the Senate.

        Only 13 incumbents in the House faced primary challenges, and only four in the Senate did — Democrats Rose Ann Antich of Merrillville, Allie Craycraft of Selma, Mark Blade of Terre Haute and Johnson, a Republican.

        Returns for today's primary will be available via the Indiana Election Division's Web site (www.in.gov/sos/elections) as they are reported during the evening. People online are reminded to refresh their browsers frequently to view the latest returns.

       



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