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Clinton County voters help GOP increase Senate majority

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REPUBLICANS: Clinton County Republican Chairman Jim Moyer makes election night updates on the overhead projector as fellow Republicans watch the results come in Tuesday inside the Frankfort Neighborhood Center.
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DEMOCRATS: From left, Clinton County Democratic Party chairman Mark Newhart, Royce Huffer and Democratic State Rep. District 38 candidate Tom Hedde talk at Jimmy V's Sports Pub as they await election results.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

After what appears to be the strongest turnout at the polls for a non-presidential election in decades, Democrats have retaken the House, but the "blue wave" did not break over Clinton County where voters overwhelmingly voted Republican and helped the GOP increase its Senate majority with the election of Mike Braun over incumbent Joe Donnelly.

A total of 9,359 residents voted in Clinton County for a 49.51 percent turnout of registered voters. That is in stark comparison to the 2014 General Election when 6,042 voted for a 30.68 turnout.

“I've never seen it like this,” Clinton County Republican Chairman Jim Moyer said Tuesday night as fellow Republicans gathered inside the Frankfort Neighborhood Center to watch the results come in. “It's heavier than the presidential election, but it's a good thing.”

There was little anxiety for Republicans in the local races where 52 offices were taken unopposed and 2,692 residents of the county voted straight-ticket Republican compared to 478 who voted straight-ticket Democrat, and two voted straight-party Libertarian.

“Locally, I didn't think we'd have very many people here (at the Frankfort Neighborhood Center) because none of our local candidates are opposed,"Moyer said. "So, at 6 o'clock, I declared all of my local county candidates elected.”

Instead, local Republicans had their eyes on the Senate race, where Mike Braun took 64.8 percent of the vote among Clinton County voters. Statewide, Braun had 52.9 percent of the vote, receiving 1,062,693 votes compared to 866,771 for Donnelly.

“That's very important because Indiana is one of those states that helps determine which party controls the Senate,” Moyer said as votes were still being counted Tuesday evening. “In my opinion, we need to get Mike Braun in there to (retain) Republican control of the Senate.”

One of the many Clinton County Republicans who ran unopposed in the general election after winning in the primaries earlier in the year is Sheriff Elect Rich Kelly, who was in attendance at the Frankfort Neighborhood Center Tuesday night.

“Being a Republican, I want to see Republicans win but, for the most part, I think we have great Republicans on the state level as well as the federal level,” Kelly said. “But, in that decision making process, we want to stay on course with what is happening in our communities, which is good work rate, low income and low unemployment. That's where we want to go. You have to wash out the noise and pick the right person, so hopefully that's the case."

In the Republican rout over Democrats within Clinton County, voters supported retaining Connie Lawson for Secretary of State (72.51 percent), Tera Klutz for Auditor of State (71.27) and Kelly Mitchell for Treasurer of State (74.81). Meanwhile, Jim Baird dominated the county's vote for U.S. Representative of District 4 (71.65) on his way to getting 64.1 percent of the vote in the district.

“I am incredibly excited and humbled for the opportunity to represent the people of Indiana’s 4th Congressional District," Baird said as he was alongside family and supporters Tuesday night in Greencastle. "I look forward to applying the commonsense approach to problem solving, used every day by the people in our district.

“I want to thank the voters and everyone associated with my campaign for all of their effort and support," he added. "I especially want to thank my wife and family for their encouragement and support. I want to thank God for his boundless blessing during this process. God Bless America."

Heath VanNatter (71.15 percent in Clinton County), Donald Lehe (74.60) and James Buck (71.53) also enjoyed large margins of victory for their respective district seats in the Statehouse.

Clinton County Democrats who gathered at Jimmy V's Sports Pub across from the Clinton County Courthouse were encouraged with the voter turnout on Tuesday in hopes that it would bode well for their party.

“My gut is telling me, with a record number of voters, that people are enthused, and hopefully it's for the right reasons,” Clinton County Democratic Chairman Mark Newhart said just before the polls closed Tuesday. “Mr. Trump has been on the TV lying for weeks, so hopefully that has had an effect.”

Tom Hedde, Democratic candidate for State Rep. District 38, stopped in about 6:15 p.m. and told those gathered of the high turnout at the Paul Phillippe Resource Center.

“There's been over 1,000,” Hedde said. “(A Democratic poll worker) said it's just blowing their records out of the water, even for the presidential election. I'd like to see that rather than the less than 30 percent turnout we had four years ago.”

There were three school board seats up for election in the county, two of which were for the Clinton Prairie School Board.

Cindy Neal earned 52.99 percent of the vote for the CPSB Washington Township seat while Travis Kelley earned an at-large seat on the school board after receiving 45.40 percent of the vote.

“I grew up with both parents working as teachers and actively involved in their school systems,” Neal said. “I developed a respect for education, teachers and administrators at an early age. When the school board position became open, I felt it was time to step up and be involved on a greater level within the school system, since I have a passion for education and the future of our students. I also felt that our community was ready to see new faces and hear new ideas.

“I am eager to be representing Washington Township and will do my very best to listen to and represent our students, teachers, administrators and community while on the board,” she added. “I come with a focused yet open mind and am eager to help make a difference in the future of Clinton Prairie.”

With two kids in the school and his wife working there, Kelley says he has a “vested interest in the success of Clinton Prairie Schools.

“I feel privileged and look forward to the opportunity to be on the school board,” he said. “I have never been on a school board before, so I would like to learn the process first and get a better understanding of how the school board operates. At that point, I would certainly like to interject what I hope is good leadership on my part."

In the race for an at-large seat on the Clinton Central School Board, Bryce Eaton won after receiving 58.66 percent of the vote.

“I think that I feel like, having a vested interest with both of my kids in the school corporation, it was my duty to try and ensure the best education for my kids that I can,” Eaton said. “We need to start younger with instilling those educational beliefs and that foundation for their careers. We are trying to prepare them as early as possible. Whether that is going into the work force or a two-year or four-year college, we want to give them the ability to have those choices early on.”

 The Times' Kat Calabro and Andrew Krull contributed to this story.