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Democrats gain foothold on several Southern Indiana municipal boards

Floyd County Democratic Party Chair Adam Dickey announces election results at a watch party in November. The New Albany City Council gained two Democratic seats for a 7-2 majority.
Aprile Rickert
Floyd County Democratic Party Chair Adam Dickey announces election results at a watch party in November. The New Albany City Council gained two Democratic seats for a 7-2 majority.

This year’s municipal elections in Southern Indiana increased or maintained the Democratic party’s representation on some boards — including flipping one city council.

Democratic Jeffersonville City Council Member Dustin White will start his third term in a few days.

But for the first time in his eight years, he will not be the minority party on the board.

Following the Nov. 7 election, Democrats gained three seats on the council. This will give them a 5-4 majority over Republicans, who went into the election with a 7-2 majority.

White said he thinks the Democrats' success goes beyond party lines — it’s about the strength of the candidates themselves.

“I don't think people went to the polls saying, ‘I'm just [going to] vote for a Democrat,’” he said. “I think the candidates worked hard. They conveyed their message, what they're about, what their values are, what qualities they had that would be beneficial to the governing body. And I think that's what resonated with the voters.”

He said at the local level, residents want candidates who will help keep the community running smoothly.

“People are just trying to live their lives, support their families and go to work,” White said. “It's really about what can municipal candidates do to make sure they are able to enjoy their quality of life when they're at home? Who's going to make sure they continue to be able to find good paying jobs?”

Jeffersonville’s 2024 board makeup won’t include Republicans Donnie Croft, Matt Owen or Joe Paris, who all lost their bids for re-election. Democrat Ron Ellis did not run for another term.

In Clarksville, Democrats maintained a majority on the town council. The party regained control of the board in 2019, four years after Republicans became the majority on the historically Democratic-led town council.

Only three of the seven council members who served the last term will be seated on the board in 2024. Republican Tim Hauber and Democrat Mike Mustain did not win re-election, and longtime Democratic council member John Gilkey didn’t run this cycle. Republican A.D. Stonecipher won the town clerk-treasurer seat.

Clark County Democratic Party Chair Tom Galligan agreed with White that this year’s success rests with the strength of the candidates.

“The candidates that we put up want to get in and help the community [and] make it better,” he said.

He also noted that the Republican losses came amid the ongoing investigation into Clark County Republican Party Chair and former Sheriff Jamey Noel.

In New Albany, Democrats gained two seats on the city council, for a 7-2 majority. Republican incumbent David Aebersold and Josh Turner, who recently switched to Libertarian, did not win re-election. Jason Applegate, a Democrat who previously led the New Albany City Council as president, did not run this year. The News and Tribune reported he recently announced his bid for state representative for District 72, a seat long held by Republican Ed Clere.

Floyd County Democratic Party Chair Adam Dickey, who was also re-elected to the council, said he feels city leaders have made a lot of progress in recent years on making the community better.

He said that includes investments in infrastructure, public safety, the local workforce and support for mental health and addiction recovery.

“I think people felt very comfortable with the leadership that we have been providing,” Dickey said. “And I think they want to see that leadership continue.”

He said it’s important to focus on community needs and respond to challenges that arise, like the COVID-19 pandemic that hit months after council elections four years ago.

Holding local office gives representatives the chance to make a difference where they live, he added.

“The job that everyone has been elected to, Republican or Democrat, is to advocate and be an ambassador for our community,” he said. “But I think when we're looking at how we can best benefit the community — how we can work to make our cities a better place to live, work, raise a family — I think those are things that kind of can transcend politics.”

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc., the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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