Two-term City Councilor Carol Schleif has announced that she will resign her seat on the Carmel City Council effective Dec. 9 and move to California. This creates a vacancy on the council that needs to be filled within 30 days, and we’ll find out soon who might be interested in being the newest member of the Carmel City Council.
City Councilor Laura Campbell, who also serves as chair of the Hamilton County Republican Party, said she has 30 days to set a meeting date so the committeemen can vote on the replacement. It will be a closed caucus and not likely during the holidays. We don’t know the date yet.
It’s a closed meeting, not open to the public, and the 11 precinct committeemen — just 11 — will pick our next city councilor for the next three years. It could be someone who just wants to serve temporarily or someone who sees this as a way to join the council without a big expensive electoral fight. Once this person is an incumbent, re-election could be in mind.
Campbell said she didn’t know who might consider running, but anyone interested in filling the spot who lives in the district can contact her, and she’ll get them the proper paperwork.
First off, this is completely different than an election. These precinct committeemen are — presumably — educated on local politics and know many of the players. They know the issues, most likely, and they are a different crowd than your usual electorate.
In addition, many of these precinct committeemen were elected during the 2016 primary. This was the same primary that Donald Trump won in Indiana and John Kasich decided to not even campaign for, so the voting bloc could be interpreted as being on the conservative side. I’m told from my sources that many of the precinct committeemen who were privately supported by Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard or City Council President Ron Carter did not win their elections. Carter himself was not selected as a precinct committeemen, along with other incumbent city councilors. For example, Bruce Kimball beat Eric Seidensticker in the race to become city councilor, but Seidensticker was selected as a precinct committeeman over Kimball by the voters. Of course, that wasn’t in Carol Schleif’s southwest Clay district, but it shows that this is completely different than a City Council election.
I’ve tried to ask around to see who might be interested in Schleif’s spot. Some people didn’t return my texts or calls, which is understandable since I imagine many people would like to keep it close to the vest. Some don’t want to show their cards and others don’t want to appear to take sides.
Two people indicated that they’re interested.
Dan Dutcher, vice president for division III sports at the NCAA, said he’s interested and will likely submit his intention to Campbell. He was a member of the Carmel Clay Parks Board from 2001 to 2009 and the Carmel Clay Plan Commission from 2001 to 2008. He appears to have the backing of some current city councilors, I’m told.
Another name is Raju Chinthala, a speech language pathologist who is a frequent attendee of local GOP events. He ran as a precinct committeeman and lost, but he was selected to be a delegate at the Republican National Convention in Ohio. He’s president of the Indianapolis Hyderabad Sister City Committee, and he serves on Mayor Brainard’s Advisory Commission on Human Relations. He’s also the chairman and board member for the Bully Prevention Alliance.
Besides these names, I think you have to assume that anyone who is a precinct committeeman for this district could also be a candidate. Some elected precinct committeemen include local developer Steve Pittman, Constitutional Patriots co-founder Sue Lile, Constitutional Patriots member Jim Decamp and Keith Griffin, a local attorney who ran against Schleif in the last election and lost. The Constitutional Patriots are a Hamilton County-based political group that says its “purpose is to promote faithfulness to both the U.S. and Indiana Constitutions, support sound fiscal policy, advance individual liberty and free markets, and help elect those representatives who will honor our goals.” Lile has told me that it’s not unfair to describe it as a Tea Party group, but that doesn’t meant they agree with every other organization that uses that same label.
I’m sure there are plenty of other people interested in Schleif’s seat, maybe even a frontrunner I haven’t yet heard about. If you have any tips, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.