WARSAW — Joe Thallemer took a decisive step toward re-election Tuesday night by defeating City Councilman Ron Shoemaker in a bruising primary battle for mayor.
Thallemer won 63.4 percent of the vote against Shoemaker and will move on to the general election without an announced opponent.
Thallemer said he was pleased with the margin of victory and would have been pleased with a slim victory, given how ugly the race had become.
“My biggest concern was how the negativity would play out as far as the social media attacks — relentless attacks that were pretty baseless and pretty disingenuous and pretty mean spirited,” Thallemer said at Republican Headquarters where he spoke with supporters.
“I felt really good going in, but I didn’t want to say that because I really wanted people to get out and vote,” he said.
While the social media attacks on local Facebook pages — including one last week suggesting he was a racist — got under his skin, Thallemer said he felt more confident as he campaigned door to door.
Thallemer visited just about every Republican household on the voting rolls in Warsaw and said the reception he received in those interactions was far different than the comments he was seeing online.
Some of Shoemakers biggest opponents unleashed numerous false accusations online that Shoemaker never bothered to address.
“I hope it’s a lesson to those who think that’s a way to get something done in this community because it’s not,” Thallemer said.
Shoemaker, a first-term city councilman who represents District 2, ran a somewhat non-traditional campaign. He chose not to debate Thallemer, claiming the debate was not sanctioned by the Republican Party. He also repeatedly shunned local reporters.
Shoemaker did not return a call left Tuesday night by InkFreeNews.
Much of the negative campaigning had been channeled through a Facebook page known as Warsaw Community, whose administrators included landlord Chad Zartman and others who remained anonymous.
By late Tuesday night, the Facebook page could no longer be found.
Thallemer said he was pleased with the turnout and said he believed voters looked at the issues.
Thallemer has overseen an aggressive agenda that addresses quality of life issues and the continued substantial growth in the city during his first two terms in office.
He told supporters that it’s hard to please everyone, that he “hasn’t been perfect” in his first eight years in office, but that he’s worked hard to make the city better.
“I think our positive message resonated,” he said.
Kosciusko County Republican Chair Mike Ragan said he preferred a more positive campaign.
“Any negativity is a problem with me,” Ragan said.
Ragan said he didn’t think Shoemaker himself ran a negative campaign. Conveying concerns to those outside of the campaign, he said, can be difficult.
Democrats have several candidates running for city council and Ragan said they’re expecting a “spirited race.”
“I’m sure they’ll be formidable and we’re not going to take them for granted,” Ragan said.
Final results were slowed by some apparent discrepancies at the centralized polling place at Center Lake Pavilion. Kosciusko County Clerk Ann Torpy described the issues as minor.