News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 27, 2012

All GOP, 5 Dems absent from forum

Moderator expresses disappointment about lack of candidate turnout

Brian Boyce
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Plenty of seats were available at Thursday night’s candidate forum.

Less than 30 people filled the audience chairs inside the Vigo County Public Library, and only nine of the 14 invited candidates for county council and commissioner came to introduce themselves and answer submitted questions.

League of Women Voters of Vigo County member and forum moderator Betty Martin expressed her disappointment after the event, which ended about half an hour earlier than initially scheduled.

“As always, I wish more people would take the opportunity they have to meet the candidates and ask questions that are pertinent to them, and get to know the candidates,” Martin said.

None of the four Republican candidates for the Vigo County Council’s at-large seat participated, nor did incumbent Democrat Mark Bird. At the event’s 7 p.m. start time, Martin assured members of the audience that all had been invited regardless of party affiliation.

Vigo County Clerk Pat Mansard said she too was disappointed in the attendance.

“I want a thriving democracy where everybody counts. But you don’t count if you don’t register and you don’t take advantage of the opportunities available to you,” she said.

Still, county-wide turnout for the May 8 primary should be a little higher than normal given the intensity of a U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Richard Lugar and his challenger, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, she predicted.

The race for the Democratic ticket’s County Commissioner 2nd District introduced incumbent Judith A. Anderson and challenger Sean Patrick Feeney, both of whom expressed high hopes for the community.

To the question of what he would do concerning local job creation, Feeney said Vigo County has an “image problem” and needs to build upon the resources provided by local educational institutions such as Indiana State University and his alma mater, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Anderson agreed that jobs are important, pointing out the recent announcement that between 200 and 300 will be coming to Vigo County at the former Pfizer site now owned by NantWorks. Bringing jobs, she said, is great. But keeping the jobs we have from leaving is equally important, if not more so.

Democrat candidates for county at-large Adam Azar, SaRetta Brown, Bill Bryan, Richard Burger, Curtis DeBaun, Ann O’Brien and Ed Ping were afforded introductory remarks as well as the opportunity to each answer questions submitted in writing from the crowd.

When asked if they would consider using new forms of taxation to offset revenue shortfalls created by property tax caps, each candidate pledged they would not, echoing one after another the idea that existing mechanisms need to be used, and revenues, tight as they are, must be managed best as possible.

Voters from each party will have the chance to select three candidates to run in the November general election for the county council at-large seat.

Thursday’s forum was sponsored by the Vigo County League of Women Voters, the Vigo County Public Library and the Tribune-Star.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or