Fewer than 15% of registered voters participated in Tuesday's primary election in Fort Wayne, but they set up what should be spirited and forward-looking contests this fall.
In the Fort Wayne mayoral contests, incumbent Mayor Tom Henry easily turned back his Democratic challengers, while first-time candidate Tim Smith captured 56% of the vote in a race against City Council President John Crawford to secure the Republican nomination.
Smith prevailed with a campaign that portrayed the five-term councilman as a career politician eager to tax and spend, but he'll have to alter his approach this fall as the GOP seeks to retain its majority on council. Incumbent council members Michael Barranda, Tom Freistroffer, Russ Jehl and Tom Didier voted along with Crawford on several of the measures Smith criticized, so the mayoral candidate will have to tread carefully in criticizing financing for the Electric Works project, riverfront development plans or the troubled Red River trash contract. A majority of the GOP council members supported the Henry administration's direction on those efforts.
The Fort Wayne council races should draw voters' close attention, with Barranda, Freistroffer and Nathan Hartman facing off against Democratic challengers Michelle Chambers, Steve Corona and Glynn Hines for the three at-large seats. The primary set up strong district races: Didier will face John Henry in District 3; incumbent Jason Arp will face Democrat Patti Hays in District 4; incumbent Geoff Paddock faces GOP challenger Taylor Vanover in District 5; and Allen County Council member Sharon Tucker easily won the Democratic contest to fill Hines' District 6 seat.
Republican incumbent Lana Keesling faces Democratic challenger Katie Zuber in what's likely to be a substantive race for city clerk. The Democratic and Republican parties have until the end of June to fill any vacancies on the ballot.
In New Haven, Republican voters signaled strong support for their city's current direction in nominating Steve McMichael for mayor. The council president was endorsed by longtime mayor Terry McDonald.
While fewer than two of every 10 registered voters participated, Tuesday's turnout is worth noting. It's much improved over the 9.8% turnout in the 2015 municipal primaries and the highest primary turnout since 1999. DeKalb County elections drew an impressive 26.5% turnout in contests that included Michael Ley's victory in a Republican primary contest for mayor and an unsuccessful construction referendum vote for DeKalb Central School Corp.
Not all voters had a chance to participate Tuesday. In Columbia City, there was no challenger for Mayor Ryan Daniel or any other incumbents. That's an encouraging sign that Whitley County residents are satisfied, but the northeast Indiana voters who made the effort to vote this spring benefit from the opportunity to set the direction for their communities over the next four years.