District 49 race to be recounted

May 16—GOSHEN — A first in at least 30 years for Elkhart County — a local state representative race is being contested.

Indiana State Representative for District 49 candidate Cindi Hajicek filed for a recount in her race against incumbent Joanna King at 11:22 a.m. Wednesday.

At noon that same day, Hajicek met with supporters on the steps of the Elkhart County Courthouse lawn for an update, where she expressed gratitude and appreciation for their support.

"We had a win because we had a competitive race," Hajicek told her supporters. "We're going to steward well what we have. We're going to give people the information they need in order to make informed decisions."

Hajicek said she and her team are working toward a website to help in that goal.

"All power is inherent to the people," she said. "We had 14% of voters who showed up this primary. That is leaving their inherent power on the table and passively letting other people decide what is going on. We are going to steward this well and together we are going to make liberty win."

She did not mention the recount during the public conference, but fellow Republican Amy Rainey, who attempted to run for the same seat in 2022 but was disqualified from the primary by the Elkhart County Republican Party, spoke briefly on numbers gathered on election night, claiming there was a discrepancy in the results.

Elkhart County Clerk Chris Anderson said Thursday that because the race is for a state legislative seat, the Indiana Election Division will moderate the recount. The process includes filing a petition and an impound of election equipment. Indiana State Police arrived at the Elkhart County Administrative Building and election warehouse at 8 a.m. to secure election equipment until the recount is completed. He noted that the election board and staff will not have access until it is complete.

"As I understand it there will now be a hearing before the recount commission dealing with the petition," Anderson said. "How that is handled, I do not know."

Because of the state-ordered recount, provisional ballot counting that was scheduled for Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. was canceled. Provisional ballot counting will be rescheduled after the recount has concluded.

The Goshen News attempted to contact Indiana Secretary of State Communications Director Lindsey Eaton Thursday afternoon but as of press time, she was not available for comment.

Elkhart County has had contested races in the past. This past November, Elkhart City candidate Nicole Read, Republican, filed for a recount in the city's tightest race, against the city's District 1 Councilman Aaron Mishler. Mishler received 491 votes to Read's 485, just six votes separating them. On Dec. 4, the recount deemed that Mishler remained the winner, with seven votes, with official results now at 491 for Mishler and 484 for Read.

But Goshen Historical Society Executive Director Ron Hoke said the last contested state-level race in Elkhart County that he recalls was in 1982 — when future Goshen mayor Mike Puro, Democrat, ran against incumbent Indiana State Representative for then District 4 (now District 49) Phil Warner, a Republican.

An attorney at the time, Hoke filed the request for the recount on behalf of Puro.

"They were using punch cards through a reader," he recalled. "The program was supposed to total split ticket and straight ticket, but on election night, the computer didn't pick up any straight ticket voters."

The totals had Puro winning by a couple hundred votes, Hoke recalled, but Warner's team didn't believe it, noting that the totals were too low. The error was found, and Puro called for a recount due to the discrepancy. The totals came out to 8,015 for Warner and 5,034 for Puro, according to The Goshen News' election records from the time.

"A recount at the local level is pretty much automatic if it's within 1%," Anderson explained. "If it's outside of that, it all depends on the candidates and it's their prerogative at that point."

On May 7, the District 49 race ended with King receiving 3,805 votes (65%) to Hajicek's 2,047 (35%).

Anderson called it one of the most hotly contested races in Elkhart County this primary season.

Last Thursday night, Hajicek responded to The Goshen News' request for comment explaining, "There were some unusual things about the Primary results, and I'm interested to see what the recount reveals."

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at dani.messick@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2065.