By David Slone
WARSAW – Republicans came out in full force Tuesday as the GOP swept all the contested election races in Kosciusko County.
Jim Smith won the sheriff’s race over Independent James Marshall, while Brad Voelz defeated Democrat Travis McConnell for prosecutor and Tony Ciriello bested Libertarian David Lewis for County Council District 3.
Smith won the Republican primary in May to oust incumbent Kyle Dukes and move forward to Tuesday’s general election. Then in the summer, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Office deputy James Marshall declared his candidacy for sheriff as an Independent.
In Tuesday’s election, Smith received 14,066 votes, or 62.91%, while Marshall received 8,292 votes, or 37.09%.
“We’re very excited, relieved and I’m just proud of my team, my family and my supporters,” Smith said in a telephone interview Tuesday night.
Now that the general election is out of the way, Smith said he will be working hard to put a plan in place for the KCSO to be even more successful. He said he will be making some announcements soon as he moves forward, including information about his key leadership positions.
Smith congratulated Marshall for running a good race and said he wished him all the luck. Smith hopes to continue to work with Marshall at the KCSO.
“I’m humbled. I’m ecstatic and they won’t be let down,” Smith said of the voters who elected him. “I’ll do the best I can. They trusted me in this position and there won’t be a drop in my work ethic.”
In the prosecuting attorney race, Voelz received 17,149 votes (75.27%), compared to 5,633 votes (24.73%) for McConnell.
Voelz could not be reached for comment Tuesday night despite several attempts, but McConnell stepped into the GOP headquarters downtown Warsaw around 9 p.m. Tuesday to congratulate Voelz, who was not there.
On the election, McConnell said, “I think we ran a good campaign, spotlighted some issues that need to be addressed and hopefully they’ll continue to address them.”
He said he doesn’t know what the future holds as far as running for political office again sometime in the future, but there’s always potential.
“It’s kind of fun fighting for issues and seeing the change that happens even if you don’t win. When I ran for Commissioner, I talked about doing a county parks department, now we have one. Sometimes you can lose and still win,” McConnell stated.
Ciriello decided to seek the County Council District 3 seat after incumbent Ernie Wiggins chose not to seek re-election. In the Republican primary, Ciriello defeated Scott Clay for the GOP nomination.
Over the summer, Libertarian David Lewis threw his hat in the ring. While Lewis earned 1,030 votes (20.31%) Tuesday, Ciriello received 4,042 votes, or 79.69%.
“I’m really happy that voters chose me to be the next County Council representative for District 3. I do appreciate David Lewis for running against me and I wish him the best of luck in the future,” Ciriello said. “But I’m looking forward to transitioning from coroner to Council. I will be turning in my resignation to (GOP County Chair) Mike Ragan in the next few days so that they have it officially on the books and I’ll be resigning (as coroner) at the end of the year so they can have a caucus to replace me.”
Ciriello said he knows he has big shoes to fill following Wiggins and he plans to “do him right” because they’re friends and he doesn’t want to let Wiggins down. “If it wasn’t for him deciding not to run, I wouldn’t be in this position,” Ciriello said.
He said he’s followed the Council for seven years, attended most Council meetings and learned what they did and how they did it.
“But it’s going to be different actually sitting at that table. So the first meeting or two is going to be a real learning experience for me, but besides the knowledge I’ve already gained, to see how everything happens when you’re actually sitting at that table,” Ciriello said.
He thanked everyone for their support in the primary and the general election.
“I feel honored that the people chose me to represent them and I’m not going to let them down,” Ciriello said.
Ragan said he was proud of all of the Republican party candidates.
“We ran a very honorable campaign and I’m pleased with the results,” he said. “I had the opportunity to visit around and see the long lines (at the polling locations) and I was pretty excited about that and I thought it would be a good day for us when I saw those lines.”
The Republican Party will have five caucuses to prepare for by the end of the year. Those will be for county coroner to replace Ciriello; treasurer to replace Rhonda Helser who was elected to be county auditor; Clay Township trustee; Winona Lake Town Board to replace Denny Duncan who was elected to the Warsaw School Board; and a fifth he couldn’t speak on yet.
Ragan said he was really pleased and grateful to all of the poll workers as they’re very important positions.
“We’re just grateful for them willing to serve,” he said.