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Photo: Stan Jastrzebski/WFIU-WTIU News
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Photo: Courtesy of Judy Sharp
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Photo: Courtesy of Larry Barker
A caucus of Monroe County Democrats on Thursday chose county commissioner Mark Stoops over county assessor Judy Sharp in a race to replace Vi Simpson (D-Ellettsville) on the State Senate District 40 general election ballot.
Of the 67 possible electors, 56 participated — five of those by proxy for other precinct committee chairs who were not present at the caucus. But before the caucus had gotten to candidate platforms, one of the three candidates — Monroe County Solid Waste Management Executive Director Larry Barker — withdrew his name from consideration.
Stoops used a three-minute stump speech to voters not only to lay out specific issues on which he’d like to focus if elected to the Senate, but also to criticize Sharp for what he called “being silent” on issues. Sharp used part of the ensuing question-and-answer session with voters to point out that county assessors don’t set policy, but the argument was not enough in the end.
After a single ballot was cast, Stoops emerged the winner by a 34 to 22 count. The 34 votes would have been enough to win the caucus even if voters from all of the district’s 67 precincts had been present and voting.
Following the loss, Sharp said she was surprised Stoops chastised her for not being vocal enough.
“I didn’t think that was necessary,” she says. “But maybe some people did. That isn’t how I’ve ever run for office. If I can’t just say what I’ve done, I’m not going to attack the other person. That was a decision he made, it worked for him. That’s great.”
Stoops, though, says he was put off that he is seldom seen Sharp, who has been assessor for 22 years, at county meetings speaking her mind on issues.
“Judy as the assessor has not been in a policy-making position,” Stoops says. “But at the same time I feel progressives locally — people who are concerned about local issues — would speak up no matter what.”
During his speech to the party faithful, Stoops even went so far as to cite the number of votes both he and Republican challenger Reid Dallas will garner in the fall, saying he’ll collect at least 29,000 and Dallas at least 21,000.
Still, Stoops told voters he believes that as many as 52 percent of the county’s general election voters are Republican — a number Dallas says he agrees with.
“The district and the dynamics in particular for Senate District 40 have changed. And I’m not sure if my competition have fully looked at the historical voting patterns in the current district, but there is a silent majority,” Dallas says.
Dallas says he hopes to be in touch with the Stoops campaign soon to begin marking out a schedule for debates prior to the election.