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Hamilton County prosecutor faces primary challenge in bid for another term

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Republicans in Indiana’s fastest-growing county face two choices for the county’s top criminal justice job.

Incumbent Lee Buckingham, who has worked in the prosecutor’s office since 1995 and has held the top job since 2011, said Hamilton County’s low crime rate is proof of his success.

He said the key is to work closely with law enforcement to build cases carefully and hold people to account for the crimes they commit.

“We’re blessed in Hamilton County. We have very little violent crime,” he said. “We want to make sure that we keep that the way it is.”

Buckingham faces a challenge from Greg Garrison, a former Marion County deputy prosecutor who also hosted a popular radio talk show for two decades.

Garrison accuses Buckingham of ignoring victims’ needs in several murder cases, cases in which Buckingham said the crime happened in another jurisdiction.

“You’ve got to get aggressive and you’ve got to mean it,” he said “We have to train better deputy prosecutors.”

Law enforcement agencies in Hamilton County have faced criticism in recent years for disproportionately targeting Black drivers in traffic stops. A 2019 News 8 investigation found Black drivers in Carmel accounted for more than 33 percent of traffic tickets despite accounting for just 2.5 percent of the population.

Black drivers in Fishers got 20 percent of traffic tickets while making up 5 percent of the population there. Buckingham said Carmel’s new police chief is working to reduce those disparities. On his end as prosecutor, he said the key is to work with police to ensure they know what they legally can and cannot do.

“We evaluate every case that’s presented to us, make sure that the law was followed, that everything was done in a constitutionally-approved manner. When it isn’t done in a constitutionally-approved manner, obviously we’re not going to be able to bring those cases forward,” he said.

Garrison said he doesn’t believe those numbers.

“Just because you say it doesn’t make it so. It also doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” he said. “So we hear those things that are going to create dissension in schools or in public forum, we’ve got to do something about it but only what we are able to do.”

News 8 asked each candidate why they believe they are the best choice for prosecutor. Buckingham pointed to his long career and track record within the prosecutor’s office, while Garrison cited his numerous contacts in law and law enforcement throughout the state.

There are no Democrats running for Hamilton County Prosecuting Attorney so Tuesday’s primary will effectively decide the election.