The Journal Gazette
Sunday, November 10, 2019 1:00 am

After loss, candidates pondering what's next

Many unsure on running again but want to be of use

DAVE GONG | The Journal Gazette

The short-term future for Tim Smith, the Republican who lost his hard-fought campaign to become mayor, will involve a lot of relaxation and reflection.

Smith challenged Mayor Tom Henry in Tuesday's municipal election, but the Democratic incumbent was elected to a fourth consecutive term in office.

Smith said he's not sure what's next, but it involves “all kinds of options, all of which will keep me involved in Fort Wayne and Allen County government, because my desire to lift every life was bigger than one political campaign.”

“There are a lot of ways I can do that,” Smith, a MedPro vice president, said in an interview late last week, adding that his options include working with nonprofit agencies.

Although Smith wouldn't specifically speculate about the next two to four years, he said if an opportunity presents itself and there's a groundswell of support, he'd consider another campaign for public office.

“For now, the voters made a very clear choice, and we get Tom Henry and a new City Council,” Smith said. “I look forward to seeing Fort Wayne continue to grow.”

The start of a new year will mark the start of a new City Council, where new faces will serve with veteran incumbents. Democrats won four of the nine seats up for election. That means starting in January, council Republicans will have a slim 5-4 majority.

One council member who will not be returning is Republican Michael Barranda, who held one of the at large seats the last four years. In an interview Thursday, Barranda said he still has a job to do and will continue to represent the city of Fort Wayne until his term ends. Barranda said he was back at work on city business at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

“I'm going to continue to do the job I was hired to do until the end of the year and go from there,” he said.

One thing that isn't in the cards, at least for now, is a statehouse campaign, Barranda said.

“I ruled that out a while ago when I realized that I don't want to be away from the family for three or four months of the year,” he said. “I don't want to be an absent dad.”

Patti Hays, a Democrat who ran for the District 4 council seat, said she was back at work as CEO of the AWS Foundation the day after the election. Hays said it's definitely too early to say whether she'll come back for another race down the line. She lost to incumbent Republican Councilman Jason Arp by 308 votes.

But Hays said she's not going to let the lessons she learned during the 2019 race go to waste. She plans to share her knowledge with other potential candidates, especially women.

“My best mentors during this race were all men, because there weren't a whole lot of women available to me to guide the process,” she said. “I look forward to that opportunity as well.”

As one of the founders of AVOW: Advancing Voices of Women, Hays said she's going to bring her experience to the upcoming Women's Campaign Institute in March that the organization puts together.

“My hope is with our March campaign institute, there will be people out there who say, 'I want to learn more' and 'How do I do this,'” she said.

Democrat Steve Corona will remain on the Fort Wayne Community Schools board, where he's served since 1981. Corona, who is executive director of Latinos Count, said he, too, was back to work the day after the election, hosting an event at Purdue Fort Wayne. He ran unsuccessfully for one of the three at-large seats.

Corona said he enjoys serving on the FWCS board. He plans to run for reelection next year and said the board has a lot to do with the search to replace retiring Superintendent Wendy Robinson and an upcoming bond issue in the spring to finance various school improvement projects.

“It's a very, very full plate,” Corona said. “It's going to be an important year for the district.”

Corona said he doesn't see his name on any future ballots to hold public office, aside from the school board.

“I like serving on the school board and the important role the school district plays in our city,” he said. “I'm not going to put my name on the ballot for anything else.”

Democrat Katie Zuber, who lost to Republican incumbent City Clerk Lana Keesling, said it's possible she will again seek public office, but there are no guarantees.

Zuber said for her first campaign, she's proud of how close she came to unseating Keesling and described the race as a wonderful experience. The vote was 27,047 to 25,307.

“To look at the mayoral numbers and to look at the clerk numbers, just to compare those, it told a really good story about our voters,” she said.

Zuber said she's a huge advocate for voting and loves Fort Wayne and the direction it's heading. For now, she said she'll take some time to relax, read a book for fun and get back into volunteering, perhaps at The Literacy Center.

Misti Meehan, chairwoman of the Allen County Democratic Party, also wouldn't speculate on whether she'll pursue another elected office. For now, Meehan said she plans to focus on party work, which includes a caucus to fill the District 1 seat on the Allen County Council.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker will vacate that position in January to represent Fort Wayne City Council District 6.

“There's all kinds of stuff to do,” she said.

Meehan's plans include conversations with candidates who want to run for office in the future.

“The rest of the month is filled with appointments with various candidates who want to run in 2020 and 2022,” she said.

A message left for Nathan Hartman, a Republican who ran for one of the at-large City Council seats, was not immediately returned.

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