Kokomo — The Republican Party nomination for the District 38 seat in the Indiana House took another turn in Tuesday’s primary election.
Howard County businessman Heath VanNatter had a huge victory in Howard County to unseat incumbent Jacque Clements.
The GOP nomination has taken numerous turns since Jim Buck resigned from the seat in 2008 to replace Jeff Drozda in the Indiana Senate. The precinct committeemen elected VanNatter to complete Buck’s term, but after a power play in Clinton County, Clements was elected to run in the November election.
The race for the nomination was sealed in Howard County, with VanNatter defeating Clements by 1,646 votes. He carried the county with 77 percent of the vote.
In Clements’ home county, her margin of victory was a scant 81 votes. She received 50.7 percent of the vote.
VanNatter carried Boone County by eight votes, receiving 368 votes to Clements' 360.
“I want to thank everyone who voted for me,” VanNatter said in his acceptance speech at Republican Party headquarters in Kokomo. “This was a group effort.”
VanNatter said he was not surprised by the victory.
“I knew it could be done,” he said. “I had a lot of support in Clinton County. I knocked on 5,000 doors. We had a great team that worked hard. This was a grassroots campaign.”
Traditionally, the District 38 seat has been uncontested in the November general election, and VanNatter hopes that trend continues.
“It was a hard-fought primary,” he said. “It would be nice to have an easy campaign in the fall.”
Clements took a philosophical view of her defeat.
“That’s the game,” she said. “One door closes and another door opens.”
Her defeat to VanNatter was not a surprise, and she noted the large
sums of money he received from the builders’ association and
Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
“They didn’t like my stance on local government,” said Clements, who said she is opposed to the eliminating local township offices. Additionally, Clinton County officials filed a civil lawsuit against Clements when she served as county auditor after a software contract was awarded to a New York-based company. The lawsuit is still pending.
“The lawsuit filed in Clinton County played a big part,” she said.
Clements said she has not decided on future plans after completing her term this year in the Indiana House.
The contests for the general election were already set as the remaining Howard County candidates seeking election to the Indiana General Assembly were unopposed.
In House District 30, incumbent Democrat Ron Herrell, seeking a third consecutive term, is being opposed by Kokomo Common Council member Republican Mike Karickhoff.
Republican P. Eric Turner was unopposed in the Republican Party primary in House District 32. No Democrat has announced intentions to run for the seat.
In Senate District 21, Republican Jim Buck ran unopposed in the primary, as did Democrat Chuck Sosbe. Buck was elected to the District 21 seat when incumbent Republican Jeff Drozda resigned in 2008.