Two familiar names – one a political newcomer – finished as the top vote getters in a City Commission primary that trimmed the pack of 11 candidates to eight.
Robert Roach, son of former Commissioner and County Judge-Executive Bob Roach, finished first with 3,253 votes, good for 14.4 percent of the total.
The younger Roach says he was “a little” surprised to earn the most votes in Tuesday’s primary, but expected a strong showing.
“My parents grew up here, and my dad was a city commissioner,” he said. “I think people are looking for stability and probably identify my dad with that, so they would identify me with that.”
Roach paced campaign fundraising for all commission and mayoral candidates, collecting almost $20,000. He has about $10,000 on hand, campaign finance records show.
Roach was followed by another familiar name in former three-term Commissioner Lynn Bowers, who took second with 2,825 votes and 12.4 percent of the total.
Commissioner Katie Hedden (2,813 votes) and Commissioner Sellus Wilder (2,528) finished third and fourth, respectively. Tommy Haynes (2,431), Commissioner Michael Turner (1,965), Jerry Bailey (1,907) and Louis McClain (1,596) rounded out the top eight.
Those finishes likely won’t hold as more voters turn out for a hotly contested presidential election between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and probable Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
About 34 percent of Franklin County voters turned out for the primary election Tuesday, according to statistics. That’s still better than the 13.8 percent who voted statewide, but it’s down from a 61 percent local turnout in the 2008 presidential primary that saw heated contests for both Democrat and Republican nominations.
More than 71 percent of local voters cast ballots in the general election that year.
Charles Cunningham (1,207 votes), Doug McGaughey (1,102) and Terry Sutton (1,025) were eliminated.
Bowers, who last served on the commission in 2008 after losing the mayoral race to Mayor Gippy Graham, said she was “very happy” to finish second and hopes to maintain her momentum heading into the fall.
“I didn’t know what to expect really, but I was hoping, and the people made it happen for me,” she said.
Incumbent commissioners faced stiff competition on the campaign trail. Wilder said opposing campaigns negatively focused on those currently serving.
“Considering that, I think I finished very well, and I hope we can now start talking about some constructive ideas and directions for our city instead,” he said.
Hedden said she was happy with her showing, but her decision to run for a second term didn’t come lightly, mostly due to balancing family and time commitments. She has twin 5-year-old daughters, a full-time job, and her husband, Mike Hedden, owns Buddy’s Pizza.
“I put a lot of thought into this job,” she said. “I don’t take it lightly. Dedicating myself for another two years plus running a campaign for a year, that’s a lot of time to take away, but I have the support of my family.”
Turner, the only incumbent to finish outside the top four, said he wasn’t surprised at Tuesday’s result, but he expects a strong finish as candidates gear up for the general election Nov. 6.
“I think that the key here is anytime you have a primary, people are excited about new names, but now it’s been drilled down to fewer candidates, and we’re able to focus on the issues more,” Turner said.
“… It’s a totally new race whenever you get to the general election, and that’s how we approached it last time, and that’s how we’ll approach it this time.”
With about twice as many voters expected to hit the polls in November, the campaign season this summer will be critical for those looking to earn a seat on the commission. Some don’t expect the results to change dramatically, but others predict considerable change between now and the general election.
Haynes, also a political newcomer, said he’s no stranger to working hard. He was pleased with his fifth-place finish, especially considering the birth of his grandchild in San Diego, Calif.
He flew to San Diego to stay with his daughter for two weeks a day after filing to run.
“It was March before I really got going,” Haynes said. “… I think I made tremendous strides in those two and a half months.”
City Commission votes percent
Robert Roach 3,253 14.36%
Lynn Bowers 2,825 12.47%
Katie Hedden 2,813 12.42%
Sellus Wilder 2,528 11.16%
Tommy Haynes 2,431 10.73%
Michael Turner 1,965 8.67%
Jerry Bailey 1,907 8.42%
Louis McClain 1,596 7.05%
Charles Cunningham 1,207 5.33%
Doug McGaughey 1,102 4.86%
Terry Sutton 1,025 4.52%