Evansville Mayor Candidates Reduced to Three
Both major county parties used ‘Candidate Filing Challenge’ to remove candidates from 2023 primary ballot citing lack of party participation, experience
The field for Evansville Mayor is narrowed to three major-party candidates — Democrat Stephanie Terry and Republicans Natalie Rascher and Cheryl Musgrave.
Only a direct appointment from either party would allow another candidate, and neither expressed interest in additional candidates.
On Tuesday, the Vanderburgh County Republican and Democratic Party removed primary candidates for Evansville Mayor from their own ballots.
On the GOP side, Caine Helmer was removed and on the Democrat side Brian Alexander, at the appeal of the respective party chair.
“The law basically says that if he had not voted in the last two primaries, in my case, Republican primaries, unless you have permission of the chairman, you cannot be on the ballot,” said County Republican Chair Mike Duckworth. “And so I utilized that statute and petition that he'd be removed and the election board voted to agree — and so he's removed.”
Neither candidate met these primary requirements.
Duckworth said the two remaining candidates have been “long serving volunteers, office holders,” who’ve participated in the County GOP party.
Cheryl Schultz is chair for the Democrats.
“I try to differentiate between a primary and a general election — literally in the primary, it is up to the party to select the candidate that they want to represent that party,” she said.
Thinning the herd is also a strategic move for the parties. For Schultz it’s about avoiding a primary fight for Stephanie Terry. She said they essentially met and decided it would be Terry running for the Democrats, and they wouldn’t “primary” their candidate.
“That had been explained to Brian and he decided to do a file to run anyhow. So that's how we ended up with a contested primary,” she said.
“We are trying to put forth the most qualified candidate to represent our party running for the mayor of Evansville. And so we already had a very qualified candidate who had filed for that position who met all the qualifications, and who has experience in local government.”
Duckworth says it’s about the party picking their best candidate to run. “And frankly, I was more concerned about someone with no credentials getting in and possibly, you know, I guess interrupting the race between the two legitimate candidates.”
The stipulation that candidates need to vote in the two prior primaries is new. One primary was required before.
Duckworth said he’s challenged a state rep candidate for the 2022 General Election, where he traveled to the State Election Board to petition for the removal of a candidate that openly criticized the local GOP party.
On the other hand, he’s also allowed an exception with City Council District 2 Candidate Maytes Rivera. “She's a local business owner, she is someone that is energetic, and that I felt, and the rest of the members of the Central Committee felt would be a good candidate to represent us in the second district councilors.”
Vanderburgh County Clerk of the Circuit Court Carla Hayden said this filing challenge happened recently for the state delegate for both parties.
She said this new law went into effect in 2021 when there wasn’t a primary election.
The Vanderburgh County primary election is May 2.