Ken de la Bastide: Ken de la Bastide column: Traditional GOP voters held key to primary outcome

May 11—The 2024 primary produced some interesting results for the local Republican Party.

Although the turnout last Tuesday was only 20% of the registered county voters, there were over 13,000 ballots cast in the GOP primary, as compared to almost 5,000 for Democrats.

There was a clear division in the Republican Party between members of the party supporting local chairman Russ Willis and the faction looking to bring about a change of leadership in 2025.

What is evident in looking at the numbers is that the traditional Republican vote cast ballots in alignment with the party leadership.

The faction that included commissioner candidates Lisa Wittkamper Rinker, Devin Norrick and auditor candidate Katherine Callahan received an average of 5,931 votes on Tuesday.

The traditional GOP candidates, including commissioner candidates John Richwine and Rick Gardner and auditor candidate Todd Culp received an average of 6,953 votes.

That's a difference of slightly more than 1,000 votes.

Had the turnout in the Republican Party primary been higher, it probably would have shown that the three traditional candidates running countywide would have won by higher margins.

It's plausible that many county residents supporting the faction looking for changes in both county government and the Republican Party probably cast their ballots on Tuesday.

It's hard to tell how the votes would have split had the numbers been higher, but a higher total likely would have favored the traditional GOP candidates.

In the race for the three council at-large nominations, two traditional Republicans, Scott Green and Jonathan Culp, received an average of 5,688 votes as compared to the 5,427 for Kristi Grabowski and incumbent councilman Mikeal Vaughn.

The result was that Vaughn will not appear on the November ballot to seek a second term on the council.

On the Democratic ballot, former county councilman Fred Reese is running for a return to the council along with Rebecca Crumes, a former member of the Anderson City Council, and Stephen Holtzleiter.

Even though the county has swung dramatically to the Republican Party in recent elections, local Democrats are hopeful of gaining one or two seats on the council.

Both Crumes and Reese should get a boost in November from Anderson Democrats.

The local feud among Republicans is likely to carry over to the fall election.

Another interesting result in the GOP primary was that Nikki Haley received 19% of the local vote for the presidential nomination.

Does that show some dissatisfaction with Donald Trump entering the fall campaign against incumbent Joe Biden?

Senior Reporter Ken de la Bastide's column publishes Saturdays. Contact him at or 765-640-4863.