Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hope For Vigo County

Vigo County has long been known for being a Democratic county with plenty of corruption. But even Democrats eventually get sick and tired of the corruption. At least that's the message they sent this past Tuesday in voting in a Republican prosecutor, Terry Modesitt, the first in many years. Modesitt received 54% of the vote compared to the 46% received by the chief deputy prosecutor, Sarah Mullican (D). Prosecutor Bob Wright's (D) office has come under attack in recent years for the favoritism it has shown to politically-connected people in Vigo County. The failure to send a former daycare owner to jail for her role in the death of a 2-year-old girl was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back according to the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. In an editorial this week after Modesitt's victory, the Tribune-Star wrote:

Republicans suddenly find themselves in control of one of Vigo County’s major elective treasures — the prosecutor’s office. Don’t blame them if they don’t know quite what to make of it just yet. It’s been a long time since the local GOP has seen one of its own rise to such an influential post.

Terry Modesitt’s decisive victory over Democrat Sarah Mullican breaks a long-standing lock Democrats have had on major county courthouse offices.

Modesitt, a first-time candidate for public office, ran an aggressive campaign aided by an undercurrent of resentment against incumbent Prosecutor Bob Wright. Even though Wright did not seek re-election, his support of Mullican allowed a hefty number of voters disgusted by Wright’s performance in recent years to transfer pent-up animosity to the person he hoped would succeed him.

As unfair as Mullican and her supporters may view this phenomenon, there can be no dispute: The voters of Vigo County made a resounding statement with the results of this race. And it had little or nothing to do with their assessment of the relative qualifications of each candidate. It had everything to do with sending Wright, the consummate establishment politician, a clear message.

The backlash against Wright can be directly traced to his handling of the death of 2-year-old Alexis Williams while under supervision of day-care provider Courtenay Scott.

Wright was slow to respond, and only after public outcry led him to ask for a special prosecutor in the case were criminal charges brought against Scott. Public emotions were further fueled by the special prosecutor’s plea bargain that allowed Scott to escape prison time.

Widespread sentiment in the community was that Scott received favorable treatment from the criminal justice system because of family connections. Of course, for Republicans to win countywide races here, they need the votes of traditional Democrats. In this case, they got them, despite the fact Mullican won her party primary over two challengers. The Democratic crossover movement was fueled in the waning days of the campaign by angry, impassioned political fliers and advertisements which attacked Mullican and Wright for a series of grievances, real and perceived.

Modesitt benefited from the Democratic Party meltdown and will now have the opportunity to change perceptions about how the prosecutor’s office does business. One way he could do that is to declare, sooner better than later, that he will be a full-time prosecutor.

Voters in both Vigo County and Marion both elected Republican prosecutors, in part, to help guard against government corruption. While in Vigo County the problems rested in the prosecutor's office, there is reason to believe widespread corruption has set in within certain Democratic-held offices, including the coroner's office, the city's Department of Metropolitan Development and the Center Township Trustee's office. Brizzi's office has already launched an investigation of the coroner's office. It is much less clear what, if anything, is being done about the DMD's and the Center Township Trustee's office's failure to abide by state and local laws in high-profile cases involving politically-connected supporters. Voters in Marion and Vigo counties are counting on their respective Republican prosecutors to insure justice. Let's see if Brizzi and Modesitt are up to the challenge.


Anonymous said...

Modesitt is Kris Kiser's brother-n-law.

Gary R. Welsh said...

And your point is?

Anonymous said...

Interesting that both who were defeated were women. Perhaps the pundits aren't appropiately considering gender's role in this victories.

Gary R. Welsh said...

It hasn't hurt Sonia Leerkamp in conservative Hamilton County.