David Berry survives GOP commissioner race

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Jake Zaring (left) congratulates David Berry (right) for his county commissioner primary victory. Darwyn Nelson (center), the county Republican party chairman, explains to the two canidates what led to a victory for Berry.

Despite winning 20 of 31 precincts in the Putnam County primary election, David E. Berry of Roachdale had to wait until the final votes were in Tuesday night before knowing he had won the Republican nod as candidate for 1st District commissioner in the November general election.

The 59-year-old Jackson Township trustee, Berry outlasted Jake Zaring and James Rodney Fenwick in the closest main race on either party's ballot Tuesday.

Berry captured 1,817 ballots for 38.96 percent of the vote, defeating Zaring, who polled 1,702 votes for 36.5 percent. Fenwick received 1,145 votes for 24.5 percent.

"I'm just happy the folks trust me," Berry said of his 115-vote victory. "I'm just glad enough people took the time to come and vote. That's what means the most to me."

Berry said he's excited to get started on the general election campaign with a chance to succeed Gene Beck as 1st District commissioner.

"I look forward to the fall," he said, adding that his secret to success was simple. "I treat everybody the same. I listen to everybody, and I plan to do the same if I'm board commissioner."

While Berry captured 20 precincts, Zaring won nine precincts and Fenwick claimed two. Yet with six precincts remaining to be counted, Zaring held a 44-vote lead before the northern part of the county swung the vote for Berry.

In succession, Berry claimed Franklin North, Russell and Franklin South, and following a Zaring rally in Floyd West, Berry closed out the champion truck puller with victories in Washington South and Clinton.

Incumbent Putnam County Councilman Phil Gick and his wife George wait patiently for the results of the primary election. Gick obtained one of three council at-large nominations on the Republican ticket.

"I knew it would be close between me and Dave," Zaring analyzed. "Both of us were running for the right reasons -- for the betterment of taxpayers."

As a final thought, Zaring, making his first foray into politics, said, "I'd like to thank the taxpayers for voting and showing that they wanted change."

The closeness of the commissioner's race wasn't a surprise to Putnam County Republican Chairman Darwyn Nelson.

"We knew that would probably be the closest race we'd have," he said after all the results were in.

Yet Nelson was impressed at how the candidates handled the heated race and its outcome.

"At the end there, all three were standing together shaking hands and patting each other on the back," Nelson praised.

The commissioner's race win now pits Berry against challenger Jeffrey Oliver Blaydes, who polled 578 votes while unopposed on a Democrat ballot that had only one contested race.

The only other major contested race was also on the GOP ballot as six hopefuls competed for three at-large Putnam County Council spots on the November ticket.

Leading the County Council vote was Gene Beck, the veteran Republican campaigner who is seeking to switch roles from county commissioner to the County Council. Beck led the way with 2,652 votes.

Also winning their way onto the November ballot were incumbent County Councilmen Larry Parker and Phil Gick with 2,533 and 2,243 votes respectively.

Gick said his key to getting elected was doing "a lot of walking and knocking on doors."

"I was hoping to come in at least third," he said, noting his recent return to Greencastle and Putnam County after 30 years in the Army. "A big challenge for me was people not knowing me."

Finishing out of the money in the County Council race were Republican Stephanie Summitt-Campbell, 2,172 votes; Tina L. Fogle, 1,931 votes; and Ty Hampe, 877 votes. There were no County Council candidates on the Democrat primary ballot.

The District 37 State Senate seat was also contested on the Republican ballot with Rodric D. Bray -- the overall district wide winner Tuesday -- getting 53.5 percent of the vote in defeating Ryan Goodwin 927-804 in Putnam County.

For the first time in several years, there were contested races among Republican precinct committeemen.

In Foxridge, Joan P. Billman topped Douglas Nally, 64-62, to win the precinct position, while in Cloverdale 1, Pat McFadden Sr. emerged the winner by a 96-73 margin over Audra Vickroy.

The GOP also had 19 candidates for its 12 state convention delegate spots. The dozen winners were: Keith Berry, Joan Billman, Marsha Carrington, Richard Coffin, Jennifer J. Coletta, Gerald Ensor, Sherrie Fenwick, Charles Hendrixson III, Darwyn Nelson, C. Jane Snellenbarger, Carol Sweet and Don Walton.

Putnam County GOP voters went along with most of their Hoosier counterparts, giving Richard Mourdock a 2,944-1,979 victory over incumbent Richard G. Lugar in the U.S. Senate, and choosing presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as their choice for the GOP nomination. Romney got 2,855 votes locally to 792 for Ron Paul, 641 for Rick Santorum and 348 for Newt Gingrich.

The lone contested race on the Democrat side saw Tara E. Nelson carry the District 4 U.S. representative vote by a 356-246 margin over Lester Terry Moore.