County races amount to "successor" stories

BEN MIKESELL | THE GOSHEN NEWSPatty Pickens embraces Samantha Walton, of Goshen, after Pickens was announced as the winner in the Elkhart County auditor race Tuesday night at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Goshen.

GOSHEN — Two outgoing Elkhart County office holders will pass their batons to key staff members following the 2018 elections.

Republican Patty Pickens was elected auditor Tuesday and will succeed her boss Pauline Graff after Graff’s term as auditor expires at the end of the year. And as expected, Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Jeff Siegel will succeed Brad Rogers as sheriff.

Pickens, who has about six years experience working in the auditor’s office, claimed victory over her Democratic opponent Nicole Ludlow by approximately 22 percentage points following an intense, and at one time controversial, race since the May primary elections.

“I’m very, very lucky,” Pickens said. “I have a lot of support from family, friends. I’ve met a lot of great people … without them I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”

Pickens hugged friends and supporters after learning she was the projected winner during a Republican election night viewing party at the VFW on Pike Street in Goshen.

As results came in during the evening, her friend and neighbor Jill Weiss would ring a cow bell while others cheered around TVs at the venue.

Pickens said she’s excited and nervous about ascending to head her department.

“I want to work hard to strengthen and build relationships with the other county offices and the other governmental units because I think … there’s been some strain there,” Pickens said.

The race between Pickens and Ludlow became controversial in August when a Democrat brought a case to the Election Board, questioning whether Ludlow was running as a true Democrat or as a Republican who jumped parties to get elected.

Ludlow was slated as a Democratic candidate in June after Pickens won the Republican nomination for auditor in the May primary elections.

The Election Board let Ludlow’s campaign continue after hearing arguments from both sides of the issue.

As Tuesday night came to a close, Ludlow was resigned about the outcome, but grateful for the support she received.

“I’m pretty excited that I lost by 10,000 votes. I’m pretty excited that many people supported me,” Ludlow said, also noting she texted Pickens with her congratulations. “At the end of the day, Patty’s the winner, and that’s the way it is.”

Ludlow worked in the auditor’s office up until May, and then moved laterally to the county’s human resources department.

The race seemed intense at times leading up to Election Day.

“Both of us work in the same building, and I think we both have friends in that building, and so, it gets kind of tough,” Pickens said. “It’s a tough environment when you’ve got two people running against each other while in the same building and we all kind of see each other.”

SHERIFF’S RACE

Electing a new sheriff was less contentious this fall since Siegel was the only candidate on the ballot for sheriff in the general elections.

Siegel received nearly 40,000 votes Tuesday.

Most of the votes were counted by the time the Goshen News went to press. Approximately 194 votes were not counted because a voting card was left in a voting machine, said Elkhart County Clerk Chris Anderson. The card is expected to be recovered and the votes counted sometime Wednesday afternoon, Anderson said.

Siegel is excited but humbled about stepping up from an investigations captain to Sheriff where he’ll now lead a law enforcement department in what he believes is Indiana’s sixth largest county.

“That’s pretty intimidating and pretty exciting all at the same time,” Siegel said.

Siegel’s confident the transition will be smooth.

“It’s been nice having that great relationship with Sheriff Rogers and the current administration. It’s going to make the transition so much smoother,” Siegel said.

Rogers will step down as sheriff at the end of the year due to term limits. From there, Siegel said Rogers will take over as Jail Captain.

Meanwhile, Vicki Becker will begin her first elected term as Elkhart County Prosecutor after running unopposed in Tuesday’s elections.

Becker became prosecutor through a Republican caucus vote in 2016, succeeding Curtis Hill after he was elected to become Indiana’s attorney general.

Chris Anderson was elected Elkhart County clerk. He stepped into the role in August, succeeding Wendy Hudson after she resigned to start a new role in California.

COUNCIL RACES

In the three contested Elkhart County Council races, Republican Doug Graham defeated Democrat Ralph Spelbring to take the District 1 seat being vacated by David Foutz.

Republican incumbent Darryl Riegsecker defeated his Democrat challenger Paul Steury by approximately 17 percentage points in the District 3 race.

“I appreciate everybody’s support out there and their trust,” Riegsecker said.

And Republican incumbent Randall Yohn beat Liberatarian challenger Eric Harris by approximately 53 percentage points.

CONTESTED RACES

Elkhart County

Auditor — Patty Pickens (R), won, 32,133 votes

Nicole Ludlow (D), lost, 20,219 votes

County Council District 1 — Doug Graham (R), won, 8,206 votes

Ralph Spelbring (D), lost, 4,966 votes

County Council District 2 — Randy Yohn (R), won, 7,397 votes

Eric Harris (L), lost, 2,268 votes

County Council District 3 — Darryl Riegsecker (R), won, 8,388 votes

Paul Steury (D), lost, 5,885 votes

UNCONTESTED RACES

Elkhart County

Judge of Superior Court 2 — Stephen Bowers, winner, 40,386 votes

Judge of Superior Court 6 — David Bonfiglio, winner, 40,060 votes

Prosecuting Attorney — Vicki Becker, winner, 39,997 votes

Clerk of the Circuit Court — Chris Anderson, winner, 39,019 votes

Recorder — Jennifer Doriot, winner, 39,345 votes

Sheriff — Jeff Siegel, winner, 39,698 votes

Assessor — Cathy Searcy, winner, 39,246 votes

County Commissioner District 1 — Frank Lucchese, winner, 39,602 votes

County Council District 4 — David Hess, winner, 11,235 votes

Aimee Ambrose can be reached at aimee.ambrose@goshennews.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.

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