It wasn’t just that Wells County Republicans claimed the Bluffton mayor’s office Tuesday night in the general election after more than two decades.
What happened to the makeup of the city council was also quite dramatic.
With voter turnout at about 35 percent, Wells County GOP candidates took over the Bluffton City Council, according to unofficial results. Three long-time incumbent democrats lost their seats. That included District 4 councilman Jim Phillabaum, who was one of Indiana’s longest-serving elected officials at 44 years in office.
Wells County GOP Chairman Zach Rodgers said in an era of polarized politics, it was a campaign focused on municipal issues.
“So a lot of the focus was really on building a better bluffton, it was on progress through partnerships.”
Political analyst Andrew Downs of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics said Bluffton’s shift could be something for state Republicans to point to as an example of quality candidates winning back seats.
In Bluffton, the tradition of walking down a few doors to the other party’s headquarters was reversed this year.
Rodgers said Phillabaum shook new councilman Scott Mentzer’s hand, and removed a City of Bluffton pin from his lapel and pinned it on his rival’s.
City Council election results* denotes incumbents
R-Roger Thorton (70.1%) 452
D-Tom Gibson (29.9%) 193
R-Josh Hunt (65.7%) 284
D-Nancy Morrisey-Leitz (37.6%) 148
R- Janella Joy Stronczek (62.4%) 249
*D- Michael Morrisey* (37.6%) 150
R-Scott A Mentzer (64.9%) 535
*D-Jim Phillabaum (35.1%) 289
R-Rick Elwell (68.1%) 1,561
*D-Melanie Durr (31.9%) 732