T he only certainty on the political landscape in Marion right now is that there will be a mayoral election next year and that two high-profile personalities will not be on the ballot in either the May primary or the general election on November 3.
Tony Maidenberg, the generally revered Democrat mayor from nearly 40 years ago (he was a youngster of 29 when he was elected in 1975), has made it quite clear he is not to be courted as a candidate again. In the Republican tent, former county chairman John Earnest took a close and careful look and decided to stay out of it. From that point forward, there is only vagueness.
Wayne Seybold, now in the sunset days of his unprecedented third term, was telling people six months ago that, no, he would not seek a fourth term. Now, he’s not so sure. “We’re exploring that possibility,” Seybold told reporters a couple of weeks ago when asked if he intends to go for it.
Seybold, of course, has explored other options: Running for Congress and running for state treasurer, both of which fizzled. Bottom line is he is just past 50 years old, has a young family and needs a job. Within Seybold’s Republican Party, not all are pleased that he may be sticking around.
John Lawson, a bedrock mainstream Republican—former two-term sheriff, former county councilman and currently county commissioner—has been putting together a mayoral campaign for more than a year. He and Seybold have met several times and exactly what sort of agreement, if any, they have we don’t know. Simple question: Would John Lawson challenge Wayne Seybold in a head-to-head primary race? Don’t know, and we don’t know if they really know themselves.
There is plenty of speculation, which even Seybold’s closest supporters acknowledge, that “Wayne fatigue” has set in among both politicians and voters. They point to the fairly narrow victory for Seybold four years ago, when he was opposed by Lynn Stribe Johnson, an inexperienced Democrat.
There are other Republicans who smell blood in the water. Alex Huskey—former Marion police officer, former state-level appointee and newly minted president of the Marion Ivy Tech campus—wouldn’t rule out a mayoral run in a conversation last week. Neither would David Gilbert, Seybold’s chief of police for the past 11 years. City Councilman Brad Luzzader, once considered a front runner to succeed Seybold, now seems to have ruled himself out—but don’t bet the homestead on it.
The Democrats have the potential for an ugly primary. Bill Henry, former mayor who lost to Wayne Seybold a dozen years ago, has announced that he’s going to run, whether the party regulars want him to or not (and there is some evidence that they don’t). Lynn Johnson has said she wants another shot at it. The most interesting potential candidate among the Democrats is an apostate Republican: Jess Alumbaugh, who submitted his resignation as a Republican precinct committeeman last spring and immediately began courting the support of Democrats.
Alumbaugh, who attended an early autumn countywide Democrat gathering that featured an appearance by U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, met Bill Henry for the first time that evening. The conversation was not pleasant, with Henry making it quite clear he did not appreciate Alumbaugh’s interest in running. Another Democrat, City Councilwoman Joselyn Whitticker, talked about a run, but has not pursued it since health issues slowed her nearly a year ago.
Who else may be lurking in the shadows? We don’t know. Stay tuned. It’s going to be interesting.
Ed Breen, co-host of “Good Morning Grant County” on WBAT radio, has been reporting on life in Indiana for 48 years.