By Marilyn Odendahl
The Indiana Citizen
Among the steady stream of cars entering and exiting the Orchard Park Presbyterian Church, Peter Wilska parked his motorcycle, adjusted his New York Yankees baseball cap and prepared to vote.
The native New Yorker who moved to Indiana because of his job building racing cars is a staunch Democrat who votes “religiously.” His youngest son, sporting a map of blond curls, was also at Orchard church to cast his ballot for the very first time.
Wilska said he pays more attention to national politics but still votes in municipal elections because all the issues and fights that entangle Congress start locally. He said he is glad that Carmel appears to be shiftinga little to the left politically.
“I’ll never vote for another Republican in my life,” Wilska said. “I’ll do anything to prevent Republicans from getting into office.” Then he stopped and clarified, “Well, not anything. I’m a Progressive, not a radical.”
By 2:30 p.m., the Orchard church polling site had tallied 705 voters or about 22% of those registered in that precinct. A poll worker was optimistic the flow of voters would continue and push the turnout to 30% or higher.
Outside the doors, the two opposing candidates for the south central district on the Carmel City Council were both campaigning just a few feet from each other. The two were collegial and friendly and complimentary of each other’s skills and commitment to Carmel.
Tony Green, the Republican incumbent, has served seven years and was redistricted into the south central district. He said he was not going to run again but changed his mind when long-time mayor James Brainard decided to retire. Not only is the mayor’s seat open but six of the nine council seats are open with no incumbent running.
Green sees the changes in leadership as energizing voters who maybe in the past, he said, had been “too content or felt disengaged.”
Irvine, the Democratic challenger, said she decided to run after working on several local political campaigns and completing her master’s degree in public affairs with a concentration in environment policy and sustainability.
As voters were entering the polling site, Irvine said, “Thank you for voting. I’m Jessica Irvine. I’d love your vote.”
Green welcomed voters while wearing a bright green t-shirt. Also, he had his mother, Nancy Green, in tow. She had travel from Florida to help her son campaign and had been visiting polling sites with him since 6 a.m., having eaten only a doughnut that, she thought, Irvine’s mom had given her.
Irvine said her mother was at another polling site campaigning for her. Then counting on her fingers, she named her parents, brothers, cousins and grandmothers as giving her a sure 10 votes.
In the parking lot, Wilska’s son said he was not allowed to vote because he had not registered. The elder Wilska was bewildered, replying he had registered when he got his driver’s license but his son shrugged and said, the registration had not gone through.
Wilska was disappointed for his son but he still went inside to vote.
“You can’t bitch if you don’t vote,” Wilska said.