Kokomo — The Kokomo Tea Party had its first election showing since forming just more than a year ago, but the bigger story Tuesday was the shocking upset of longtime Howard County Councilman Jim Papacek.
Considered a chief ally of Council President Dick Miller, Papacek lost to political newcomer John Roberts, an Indian Heights resident, who took 52 percent of the vote.
Tuesday, Roberts showed up at Howard County Republican headquarters after 8:30 p.m. with his family, after all but a few party stalwarts had gone home for the evening.
Papacek, on the other hand, was at headquarters earlier in the evening, surrounded by party faithful as the votes were read.
“I thought it was really strange ... Jim not getting re-elected, with all the experience he has on the county council. It will be really hard to replace him with someone who really hasn’t been a part of the Republican party,” former Howard County Commissioner Brad Bagwell said Wednesday.
Roberts said he was “surprised” by Tuesday’s result, but attributed it in part to hard work.
At the same time, Roberts said there is a certain level of voter dissatisfaction.
“A lot of people were angry, and they wanted to mix things up,” Roberts said. “They’re upset they’re being overtaxed. It’s their wallets talking.”
Roberts stopped short of saying the dissatisfaction was with county government.
“I wouldn’t say so much county government; they want to get some fresh vision in there,” he said.
One area where Roberts hasn’t been in step with current county leadership is on annexation.
Roberts has consistently supported Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight’s decision to annex the Heights, even as county leaders have opposed every aspect of the annexation plan.
County Councilman Paul Wyman said he welcomed both Roberts and former County Councilman Dwight Singer onto the Republican ballot in November. Singer, who lost to Dave Trine in a 2006 county commissioner race, seeks to return to a seat he vacated four years ago.