When this week’s Breeze went to press, not a single vote had been counted but one outcome was known. The turnout would be low. Primary Election turnout is always lower than that of General Elections. Low turnout means that a low vote total can produce a winner. Turnout for both the Primary and the General is always lower in non-Presidential elections. Voter interest is spurred by the names at the top of the ballot.
The National Ticket on Tuesday’s ballot featured one office, that of U.S. House of Representatives. Every candidate listed was new to Putnam voters. (Redistricting has moved Putnam into the 1st Congressional District which is currently represented by Carol Miller of Huntington.)
The State Ticket did not feature a State Senate candidate from Putnam other than Eric Tarr who was unopposed.
The interest in Tuesday’s election was largely dependent upon selection of Republican candidates for County Commission and Circuit Clerk and the election of three candidates to the Board of Education.
Barring a dramatic shift in voter sentiment, the Republican candidate selected Tuesday will be elected in November. When the General Election rolls around, Putnam voters will rubber stamp the vote of all who participated in the Primary. The turnout in November is likely to be much higher than it was on Tuesday but, with little exception, only Republican candidates will be on the General Election ballot.
The votes which produced winners on Tuesday effectively will count twice because no Democratic Party candidate can win in November. A candidate received 51% or more of the Republican vote for Circuit Clerk on Tuesday will be unopposed in November. If Tuesday’s turnout was in the 20 to 25% range, 15% or less of registered voters has effectively elected the next Circuit Clerk. Since four Republicans were seeking the nomination, less than 10% of Putnam’s eligible voters may have determined November’s winner.
Republican dominance in Putnam County is a relatively new development. Fifty years ago, registered Democrats vastly outnumbered the Republican. Despite that advantage, Putnam Republicans were often elected to county office. Republican candidates were not elected in the General Election because they were Republicans. Republicans were elected because many Democrat losers in the Primary and their supporters in that era chose to vote Republican in November.
A similar switch in allegiance is unlikely to happen in 2022 because there is only one Democratic candidate whose name will be on the November ballot. That candidate is Jim Withrow who is seeking a seat on the County Commission. Withrow is unlikely to be elected in November because the factions which existed in the Democratic Party of fifty years ago are not present in the Republican Party of today.