Voting is already underway for the November 2022 general election but the vast majority of Jefferson County voter traditionally cast their ballots on election day and that’s just days away on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Perhaps the most highly contested election in Jefferson County is the local race for Jefferson County Sheriff where Republican challenger Ben Flint unseated incumbent Sheriff Dave Thomas in the GOP primary in May to face Democrat Tim Davis in the general election.
Flint, 39, is a native of Madison and 2011 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School. He is currently a K9 Patrolman with Madison Police Department but has previously served with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, the Collier County (Florida) Sheriff’s Office and in the U.S. Coast Guard. He and his wife, Jessica, reside in Jefferson County with their six children.
Davis, 64, is a lifelong resident of Jefferson County and a 1977 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School. He has 18 years experience in law enforcement with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana Department of Correction. He and his wife, Alice Welsh Davis, live in Jefferson County where they have raised three daughters.
Here are four questions posed to both candidates ahead of next month’s election.
Ben Flint: My priorities are providing Safety, Security and Transparency to the citizens of Jefferson County. The community deserves the best service we can offer. I will accomplish this by instituting targeted patrols to better serve all areas of the county, properly training a capable jail staff and dedicating myself to being a visible and accessible Sheriff.
Tim Davis: As with any Sheriff the main priorities are to service the courts and the running of the jail. Aside from that, I would like to develop a comprehensive plan ensuring community safety. This plan would include investigations and enforcement of theft and drug crimes.
Ben Flint: The single biggest issue facing the next Sheriff of Jefferson County is drug addiction and drug related crime. It’s an issue that will have to be addressed both inside and outside of the jail.
On a policing front drugs tie into most property and violent crime. Interrupting the drug trade slows criminal activity.
Inside the jail, keep ensuring that inmates who are serious about recovery and receive the tools they need.
Tim Davis: I believe that two big issues are officer moral and employee retention. The higher the moral is more likely the better work performance. In return, that would result in better service to our community. I will continue to try and improve the benefits, pay and workplace environment. Having experienced officers within the department will increase the efficiency of service provided to the public.
Ben Flint: I believe I am uniquely qualified for this essential challenge. I am the only candidate who is certified as both a law enforcement and corrections officer.
I began my corrections career in a faculty housing up to 1,000 inmates.
I have also toured facilities in Dearborn and other surrounding counties. These opportunities have exposed me to cutting edge programs to decrease recidivism and increase community welfare.
Tim Davis: It seems that the new jail would be a daunting task for any sheriff whether it be old, current, or new. My plan is to keep an open mind, be flexible and listen to the ideas and opinions of ones currently working with the department. I will also rely on my experience and knowledge of working with the Indiana Department of Correction and prior employment at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.
Ben Flint: I have dedicated my life to public service. I began by serving the nation in the armed services. Following my military service I returned to my home community ready to serve still. I’ve been a corrections officer, patrolman, deputy, detective and K9 handler.
I am the only Law Enforcement Academy graduate in this race. I believe that I have the plans and experience to be effective from day one.
I know the needs of Jefferson County and will provide its citizens with the quality service they deserve.
Tim Davis: I would be the best candidate because I’ve been a lifelong resident of this community and feel that I’m more inclined to the knowledge of their wants and needs.
All of my experience in the criminal Justice system has given me a vast range of knowledge from different perspectives. I have the passion and dedication to serve this community with honesty and integrity!
I will perpetuate that throughout the department giving that back to the community.
A grassroots effort that began just the week before the Madison Regatta has developed into an organization called MadWomen that is focusing on education and outreach in support of women’s rights. On Thursday that group held its first official event while hosting the Indiana Democratic Party’s Contract with Women Statewide Tour.
MadWomen is a group of Madison and Jefferson County activists, allies and supporters of women’s reproductive health rights in Indiana.
“We are a non-partisan group,” said Cami Keltch, one of the leaders of MadWomen. “We are trying to get Democrats, moderate Republicans, independents to vote for policy and not party, and this matters. Women losing their rights in 2022 isn’t OK.”
Following the Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in which the majority held that abortion is not a constitutional right, overriding the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision, the group formed when Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced plans for legislation on abortion in a special session in July. And with Holcomb serving as the grand marshal for Madison’s Hometown USA parade, they began making plans to protest when the Governor passed on the parade route.
“The first time we were meeting was when we were organizing that,” said Keltch, and in just a few days they gathered enough supporters to be on both sides of Main Street at the intersection of Mulberry Street.
After that, “we just kept going,” showing up at the State Senate hearings in which MadWomen member Kasi Bear testified on Senate Bill which banned abortion with exceptions for rape and incest, as well as for pregnancies which threaten the lives of the mothers and in which the fetus has a fatal abnormality or condition. Even though the legislation passed and the bill was signed by the Governor, abortion access in Indiana has temporary been restored after an Indiana circuit court granted a preliminary injunction against the ban.
MadWomen now has two billboards in Jefferson County — one at State Road 62 and State Road 7 with another at US 421 and State Road 62 with the message: “Vote like your daughter’s life depends on it!” The group also has yard signs, door hangers, a Facebook page and a website.
Keltch, in her effort to achieve policy changes, began reaching women’s right supporters including Congressional candidate Matt Fyfe, who met with MadWomen during Soup Stew Chili Brew, and Charlestown Mayor Treva Hodges, who she met at another function.
“We’re hoping to make an impact on the election but we also know that our work won’t end Nov. 8. We’re in this for the long haul,” said Keltch.
Drew Anderson, communications director of the Indiana Democratic Party, said that Thursday night’s Contract for Women event was the 12th of that tour with two more to go, and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tom McDermott has been at all of them.
“This place is jam-packed,” McDermott said of the event held at Red Bicycle Hall in downtown Madison. “It’s not the biggest city I’ve been to, but it’s the biggest stop on the women’s tour by far. I want to say thank you to the residents of Madison for showing up.”
Anderson said he counted 85 in attendance, and views of Facebook videostreams on the MadWomen and Jefferson County Democratic Party showed a nearly 300 combined views.
Fyfe, the Democratic candidate for Ninth District Congress, and Nancy McDevitt, Democratic candidate for Indiana House District 66, were both there along with Treva Hodges, elected in 2019 as Mayor of Charlestown, and Shelli Yoder, Indiana State Senator for District 40 elected in 2020.
“I am here today because I know that abortion is healthcare and it saves lives,” Keltch said at Thursday’s event. “But I also know that it is so much more than that,” calling the “war on women that has been waged on women by extremists in our country and our state is unacceptable and it must be stopped. And the only way we can effectively stop them is with our votes.”
She said, “I look around this room tonight and I see people who identify as members of different faith groups or perhaps no faith group. I see people who affiliate with different political parties or perhaps no party, and yet you all took time away from your busy lives because you recognized that you have the power to be a part of lasting change, and help to permanently restore reproductive rights in your state and across our country.”
She said that if reproductive healthcare is needed that would not be permitted by Senate Bill 1, it would require those women to go to another state, something that Keltch, who serves as medical site manager for the Jefferson County Jail, said “most of my patient population at the jail would not have that luxury. My patients have the highest risk of maternal mortality in a state that has a dismal report card. Indiana has the third highest rate of maternal mortality in the U.S., a number that is expected to climb if we do not get people into office who will fight for better and more expansive reproductive healthcare options. My patients are also at higher risk of being victims of domestic violence and also at being charged and jailed for neglect when they are unable to care for children that the extreme right wants to force them to birth.”
Yoder said, “We need to be reminding everyone living in Indiana that it’s going to be on each of us to stand up, speak out and vote on (election day) Nov. 8 if we want to support the right for women to be seen as fully human, see them as worthy of having liberties and freedoms and choices as men and to be able to decide with their healthcare provider on healthcare choices vs. people elected to make those choices for them.”
McDermott, who is running against incumbent Republican Todd Young, said he is supporting women’s rights because “I have a wife and a daughter, and it’s very important to them, and if it’s important to my wife and daughter it’s important to me, I’m a dad and a husband as well. I don’t think it’s right for Hoosier women to be treated like second class citizens. I don’t think the American woman should be discriminated on based on where they live” by whether they have abortion access.
“When you talk to a guy like Todd Young, he says Indiana should decide whether or not abortion is legal” but McDermott said “what that does is cause inequitable situations where it depends on where you live whether you have the same rights as somebody else. That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not the America I believe in.”
Hodges said, “This isn’t just about abortion. It’s not just about feminine hygiene products. It isn’t just about maternal mortality. It is not just about any single one of these issues.” She said it’s far more complicated than that, noting that “attracting women to your city and creating opportunities for women to thrive in your city has been shown to be one of the key successes in economic development,” proven true by many academic studies since 2006. “Communities that take care of women and empower women thrive economically.” And even as economic development has been a key initiative by Holcomb, Hodges said that’s difficult to do when the state “has legislation that denies women their basic rights.” And added that supporting women’s freedoms “is the logical thing to do, not just the correct human response.”
Fyfe said he was “glad to be there as an ally defending women’s rights” and that “we need to codify Roe, and make it so no matter where you live and the zip code where you live, you have reproductive freedom and you have body autonomy.”
Yoder said, “Before Senate Bill 1 even passed, Indiana had the second worst access to reproduction justice and abortion care in the United States. So, we are fighting to just getting back to being the second worst state when it comes to access, and that’s how desperate we are. And that’s how outraged you must be and must maintain that outrage until Nov. 8.”
Another death related to the COVID-19 pandemic was reported this week in Trimble County based on information released by the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
Trimble County’s death toll is now 46 after the first newly reported death in that county since Oct. 3. Death totals remain the same in Jefferson County with 161, Carroll County with 51 and Switzerland County with 21. The overall death toll for the four-county area now stands at 279.
Jefferson, Carroll and Switzerland continue to have a low community level spread according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, on Friday, the CDC rated Trimble County with medium level community spread.
Trimble County had nine new cases of COVID-19 in the last week, up from six the previous week. There was also an increase in COVID-19 cases in Jefferson County with 13, up from seven last week. Meanwhile, there was decline in cases in Carroll County and Switzerland — both with just four new cases in the last week; Carroll had seven cases in the previous week while Switzerland had six.