Justin Busch is going to the State Senate, but he may not be the only Allen County Council vacancy the GOP must fill

Eric Tippmann, left, and Justin Busch, center, were sworn in as Allen County Council members ion Dec. 31, 2016. Busch was elected to fill David Long's seat in the State Senate on Tuesday, and if Tippmann is elected Perry Township Trustee Nov. 6 both could be replaced by Republican precint officials Nov. 28. (News-Sentinel.com file photo by Kevin Leininger)

A Republican caucus Tuesday selected Allen County Councilman Justin Busch to succeed retiring State Senate President Pro Tem David Long, but the timing of his resignation from council and the naming of his replacement are complicated by the fact that the seven-member council may soon have not one but two vacancies to fill.

By a 51-36 vote at GOP headquarters in downtown Fort Wayne, 16th District precinct officials favored Busch over retired Fort Wayne Police officer Tom Rhoades to fill the final two years of Long’s term. Long will leave the Senate in November after 22 years of service.

But county Republican Chairman Steve Shine said he will ask Busch to remain on Allen County Council until Nov. 6 — one day before the State Senate will organize for its 2019 session — in order to prepare for the possibility of having to replace not only Busch on council but Eric Tippmann as well. Tippmann is running for Perry Township trustee in the Nov. 6 election against Democrat Melissa Rinehart. Busch has agreed to resign Nov. 6.

Shine, an attorney, said state law gives him two options for scheduling a caucus to fill a vacancy: within 30 days of the office holder’s resignation or within 30 days of an election, such as occurred Tuesday. Busch’s resignation on election day would allow Shine to hold a caucus to replace him and Tippmann, if necessary, on Nov. 28.

Busch, Northeast Indiana Director for U.S. Sen. Todd Young, was elected to council by a caucus in 2016 following the death of incumbent Roy Buskirk. Buskirk was re-elected that year despite his death, and Busch was the only candidate to file in the caucus to fill the four-year term that began in 2017.

Before joining council, Busch worked on numerous political campaigns, including President-elect Donald Trump, but had never sought office before. He also, worked in the administration of President George W. Bush and is a former aide to Sens. Dan Coats and Richard Lugar.

“I’ve enjoyed my time on council and learned a lot. I’ll always be a county guy at heart,” Busch said. “I’ve been in a unique position to learn about local government, which will help at the state level.”

“I think (Busch) is an outstanding young man who has the political juice in Allen County needed to, get the job done,” Shine said. “He can use his many contacts to keep Fort Wayne and Allen County moving forward.”

Long, too, praised his successor. “I’ve known Justin for quite a while, and he has a great track record of working successfully with others in both the public and private sectors. I think he will fit in quickly in the State Senate, and I am very excited for him and our district,” he said in a statement.

Both Busch and Tippmann serve at-large, meaning they represent the entire county. As a result, unsuccessful candidates in the caucus to replace Busch could also compete in the caucus to replace Tippmann should he win Nov. 6.

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