A former city councilwoman, Liz Brown, scored a close victory over Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries on Tuesday for the state Senate District 15 Republican nomination.
Unofficial results showed she won 3,641 votes – or 37 percent – compared with Fries' 3,291 votes, or 34 percent. Allen County Councilman Darren Vogt came in third with 2,117 votes, or 22 percent. Businessman Jeff Snyder took 6 percent of the vote, or 567 ballots.
“We worked so hard. We had people walking since February, and we walked as many places as we possibly could – even hitting houses for the second time,” Brown said. “That made all the difference in the world – talking to voter's faces and asking for their vote.”
She faces Democrat Jack Morris – a Fort Wayne attorney – in the general election for the seat.
With well-known candidates in the race, the contest was expected to be tight but only heated up in the final weeks of the contest.
Fries' campaign received $27,000 in late contributions. Brown received $36,000, but almost all of that came from her and her husband. She said she felt she should have some “skin in the game” and used the money in targeted ways to get her over the top.
“I'm very thorough, and I have promised every voter that I will work hard to be a good steward of their dollars and their trust,” Brown said.
The 55-year-old is a civil mediator who has run unsuccessfully for several offices. But she said her one term on the Fort Wayne City Council gave her legislative and budgeting experience that she believes is important to serve in the Indiana Senate.
Brown is a proponent of phasing out the business personal property tax, saying “if we reduce taxes, people keep money and can invest.”
The seat was open for the first time since 1985 as Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, did not seek re-election.
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Fries said he was proud of running a campaign full of honor and integrity, and he congratulated Brown on doing the same.
“We just didn't get enough people to press that button,” he said.
Fries said he probably should have started campaigning earlier and acknowledged that late radio and television ads Brown ran could have made a difference.
“It's a culmination of everything,” he said.
Fries received hearty applause during his concession speech at Allen County Republican Party Headquarters, where he thanked his family and volunteers.
He said he still has seven months as sheriff and might go back into teaching when his second term is up.
He could not seek a third term as sheriff because of term limits.
Fries, 54, has spent 32 years in law enforcement. He ran on concerns that state government is getting too big.
Vogt, 44, stressed his experience with budgeting as a county councilman elected in 2001. Vogt also said he gave up that County Council seat to run for the Senate. He will serve out his term.
The insurance agency owner was interested in keeping taxes low and businesses free from regulation.
Snyder, 58, wanted to offer voters a choice of someone other than a lifetime politician. He runs a food service company and hasn't been very involved with Republican politics until now.