Miller, Eller join list of incumbents winning Republican primary

Winners of the contested races in the Huntington County Republican primary election on Tuesday, May 6, take time for a photo after the election results were announced.
Winners of the contested races in the Huntington County Republican primary election on Tuesday, May 6, take time for a photo after the election results were announced. Photo by Scott Trauner.

Before Huntington County's 36 precincts began reporting their totals, the 768 absentee ballots cast before Tuesday's primary told much of the story of who would win the election for the Republicans.

Those candidates who started out ahead never lost ground.
Each contested county race stayed relatively steady, with little deviation in the final percentage of votes cast after the last precinct reported in.

In the hotly contested race for county commissioner in the first district, incumbent Leon Hurlburt never pulled ahead of challenger Rob Miller to become the Republican nominee in November's general election. Miller received a total of 2,436 votes, or 55.54 percent to Hurlburt's 1,950 votes, or 44.46 percent.

"It's an honor for the Republican Party to choose me as the standard bearer for the party going into the fall election," Miller said, noting that his family, election committee and relationships he has built over the past 30 years helped him win the primary.

Hurlburt could not immediately be reached for comment.

Another closely-watched race was for superior court judge. Incumbent Judge Jeffrey Heffelfinger edged out challenger attorney Justin Wall with 2,486 votes or 56.54 percent to Wall's 1,911 votes, or 43.46 percent. Heffelfinger said this will be his last term in the judge's seat.

"I'm thankful the voters have faith in me. I have a lot of work to do. A lot of changes are coming up in the court in the next year-and-a-half to two years," he said.

Heffelfinger's goals for the next six years include rethinking how the county jail will be affected by the new criminal code and what programs can be implemented to address the code's mandates and keep the jail population down.

Wall thanked his supporters, who helped him gain a respectable percentage of votes. He hinted that he may run for judge again when Heffelfinger's term is finished.

"We gave it the best we can. I'm really hoping that the judge and the courts and the prosecutor's office implement these ideas that I campaigned on," he said.

"There's always the next six years. I'll go back to the grindstone of running my practice and providing legal services. It was good exposure."

In the race for county auditor, incumbent Cindy Yeiter held on to her seat in what she described as a "nerve-wracking" race. Yeiter won with 2,333 votes, giving her 53.71 percent over challenger Pam Updike, who received 2,011 votes for 46.29 percent of the vote.

Yeiter also says it will be the last time she runs for public office.

"I'm relieved, joyful, thankful and ready to get on to the next chapter of my life," she said. "I can just finish my career and retire."

Yeiter's plan to purchase new taxing cycle software was an issue in her campaign, after several glitches were reported, causing errors in payments. She says she still has plans to replace the current software, at a cost of about $198,000.

Updike, who has served as city clerk-treasurer, county clerk and county council, said she will not run for office again after her loss to Yeiter.

"We both ran a good race," Updike said. "It was a clean race and I wish her the best. I tried to get the word out that we needed less spending in the office, and I guess people didn't pick up on it."

In other contested Republican primary races, Raymond "Keith" Eller won the third district County Council seat, taking 626 votes or 62.91 percent to incumbent Joel Harris' 369 votes, or 37.09 percent. It was largely a moot point, since Harris announced he would be unable to serve because he will enter the mission field.

Eller said he wants to continue making sure the county is in sound fiscal shape in the next four years.

"Now they're debt free and bond free, (I want) to keep it that way, but still have advancement and get some economic development in here," Eller said.

Jay Poe repeated his win in 2010 against challenger Monty Doctor, taking 2,728 votes for 64.17 percent of the vote to Doctor's 1,523 votes, or 35.83 percent. Poe says he will continue to work on farm drainage and development, which he said make up 99 percent the duties of his office.

"I am very thankful to the people of Huntington County for continuing to want me in office," he said. "I will continue to work just as hard in the future as I have in the past."

Technically, the Republican candidates won their party's nominations Tuesday for next fall's election. However, with few Democrats registered in Huntington County the primary race is seen as perhaps more important for local candidates than the one in November. Democrats as well as independents can still fill the empty slots to run against the Republicans up to June 30 by noon.

Complete caption: Winners of the contested races in the Huntington County Republican primary election on Tuesday, May 6, are (from left) Joe Poe, county surveyor; Jeff Heffelfinger, Superior Court judge; Cindy Yeiter, county auditor; Rob Miller, first district county commissioner; and Keith Eller, third district county council. There were no contested races on the Democrat ticket.