It was a dark and stormy night . . .
Always wanted to start a story like that, and today being the eve of all hallows eve seemed like as good a time as any. Plus, we’re more or less on the eve of another election – but with early voting who knows, is there really an Election Day anymore?
Beg pardon; I digress.
As sick as most Hoosiers are of Messrs. Braun and Donnelley, here’s hoping those two clowns don’t keep Montgomery County voters away from the polls. Sure, after watching countless hours of tasteless and classless TV ads, the temptation is to write the entire thing off as hopeless and start a caravan heading somewhere else. The problem is, who wants to go north where it’s colder? We could go east or west but I’m not that great a swimmer. And we can’t go south because Mexico’s immigration policies are pretty tough.
So if we’re stuck here, we may as well participate in the process and try to make things as good as they can be. Besides, while mid-term elections are often passé, this one has some teeth in it locally. In fact, in honor of Halloween, you might say this election (cue dramatic horror film music) is for the soul of the county!
Too melodramatic? Yeah, ok.
Here’s the thing. Right, wrong, fair or unfair, this election is being viewed as the zoners vs. no-zoners, the wind farmers vs. no wind farmers. Ed Stephens, a Democrat at heart and an Independent on the ballot, is running against Republican incumbent Jim Fulwider for a seat on the Montgomery County Council. Stephens is a strong proponent for the no zoning movement and has the support of the no wind turbine group. As a current member of the commissioners, Fulwider has caught blame for wind policies and the comprehensive plan while picking up considerable support from community leaders like Sen. Phil Boots, Deanna Durrett, Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton and others.
Over on the council, Republican incumbent Mark Smith is pitted against newcomer and Independent Greg Wilcox. Both candidates have publicly opposed wind farms. Wilcox has been adamantly opposed to planning and zoning while Smith said he sees the need for a plan to help the county grow economically.
These two races capture the spirit of the debate that has been ongoing in this county for decades. One side believes that planning and zoning is a crucial step toward economic growth while the other thinks not. One side believes creating things like trails and parks and co-working spaces helps spur growth. The other side? Not so much.
It’s not quite the Hatfields and McCoys . . . those folks were probably friendlier.
The lines are drawn and could not be more clear. But there’s irony here, because neither race will make or break either side.
This time.
If Stephens wins, he’s only going to be one vote on a board of three. If Wilcox wins, the no zoning group still has a narrow majority on council. But, the table would be set for monumental battles the next election. If Stephens is a commissioner, the anti-zoning group only needs one more seat to take control of the executive branch of the county government. On the council, the split goes from 4-3 to 5-2 and cements the no-zoning platform. If that happens, look for the city-county rift to grow even wider.
But that’s two years and a whole lot of “what if’s” away.
For now, despite the different views, these four might have more in common than you think. Smith is a successful businessman with an abundance of common sense and good roots. It probably wouldn’t be unfair to describe Wilcox as a younger version of Smith. Fulwider has served the community as a fireman for years. Stephens did the same with his own oil business. Both Fulwider and Stephens have held elected office before.
All four are admirable, good guys who work for what they believe in. How could anyone want more from an office holder than that? Unlike so many elections, this is not choosing the lesser of two evils. The choices here are good people. It just depends on what path you want this county to take.
Two cents, which is about how much Timmons said his columns are worth, appears periodically on Tuesdays in The Paper. Timmons is the publisher of The Paper and can be contacted at ttimmons@thepaper24-7.com.