FORT WAYNE – Republicans gained an even larger advantage on the Fort Wayne City Council after reclaiming a seat the party held for decades.
Republican Russ Jehl defeated Councilwoman Karen Goldner, D-2nd, on Tuesday after receiving 4,453 votes – 52.2 percent – according to unofficial election results.
The win gives Republicans a 6-3 majority on the council after holding a 5-4 edge for the past eight years.
Jehl said his aggressive direct campaigning was probably the largest reason for his victory. He or campaign volunteers visited half of all homes in the district.
"I know that we did everything that we possibly could," Jehl said.
Goldner, who received 4,082 votes, was visibly upset with the result when she spoke briefly to fellow Democrats at Grand Wayne Center.
"It has been a wonderful four years, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Have a good evening," she said before leaving the stage.
Goldner upset long-term incumbent Republican Don Schmidt by fewer than 20 votes to win the seat for Democrats four years ago, and the race was expected by many to be the closest of all council contests.
In the race for the city's three at-large positions, a former councilman regained his position by replacing the one who defeated him four years ago.
Republican John Crawford joined Councilmen Marty Bender, R-at-large, and John Shoaff, D-at large, in securing the three positions. Bender finished with 27,455 votes, Crawford with 25,051 votes and Shoaff with 23,166 votes.
Crawford lost his election in 2007 to Councilwoman Liz Brown, R-at -large, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last spring.
Crawford said he thought he benefited from "bullet voting" – encouraging supporters to vote for him and nobody else in the seven-way at-large City Council race, where each voter could choose three candidates.
"All the Republicans do it softly. This is the first time I did it publicly," he said, referring to a newspaper ad in which he appealed to voters to "consider voting only for Crawford."
Republican Tom Freistroffer finished fourth with 22,633 votes. Also running were Democrats George Guido, 14,655 votes, and Gordon Anthony, 13,341 votes; and Libertarian Alex Avery, 5,027 votes.
The city's other district races presented no large surprises, as incumbents held onto their positions and Democrats expectedly won the open seat.
Democrat Geoff Paddock, the director of Headwaters Park, won a seat on the council by securing 3,269 votes – 61.6 percent – in the southern 5th District. Paddock defeated Republican Ben Hall, who took 2,035 votes.
An exhausted Paddock said he worked hard to win the election and plans to continue that work when serving in office. Paddock will replace Democrat Tim Pape, who did not seek re-election this year, and thanked Pape for his service.
"I want to put a lot of hard work into this job," Paddock said.
The other district races were all lopsided victories for Republican incumbents.
Councilman Tom Smith, R-1st, easily held onto his seat. He won a fourth term with 7,318 votes – 71.3 percent of the vote. Democrat Steve Shafer earned 2,942 votes.
In the southwestern 4th District, Councilman Mitch Harper won with 6,107 votes – 63.6 percent – to win a second term. Democrat Mike Avila finished with 3,491 votes.
In the northwestern 3rd District, Councilman Tom Didier won 5,163 votes – 70 percent – to secure a third term. Democrat Christian Nagel received 2,215 votes.
Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, won re-election unopposed.
Brian Francisco of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.