Rich James: Region takes a hit with Democratic demise
Thursday, November 10, 2016 10:09 AM
MERRILLVILLE – Democrats across the country took a hit during Tuesday’s election, but nowhere was it felt more than in Northwest Indiana. NWI had the most riding on the Indiana governor’s race. Democrats in that corner of the state were high on John Gregg, the party’s candidate for governor. Just as he couldn’t overcome the plurality of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012, Gregg couldn’t make up for Donald Trump’s huge plurality this year.
According to NWI Democrats, Gregg was to be the area’s link to Indianapolis and the massive amounts of money resting in state coffers. Gregg made a considerable number of stops in the area, hoping to raise money and energize the region’s Democrats.
Lake County Democratic Chairman John Buncich, who also is county sheriff, led the push for Gregg, working hard to bring out the area’s huge union vote. While the region’s vote for Gregg was substantial, the pluralities of the past were diminished by the unexpected turnout for Trump and the residual effect for Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Holcomb.
Also falling to the Trump onslaught was Lorenzo Arredondo, the former Lake Circuit Court judge who was seeking the attorney general’s post.
But, the region’s future relationship with the Republican-controlled Legislature clearly rested on Gregg. Gregg two weeks ago promised that Lake County would be his first stop the day after being sworn in as governor. In fact, he said he hoped to be able to get to Lake County in the event of a heavy snow since state plows “stop at the Lake County line.” Poor snow removal on state highways in NWI has long been a point of contention.
A Gregg victory likely would have meant some NWI folks landing jobs on the state level. One of the names most prominently mentioned was that of Buncich himself, who is serving his final term as sheriff.
With the next governor’s race four years away, the region has some time to help plan and cultivate their next candidate for governor. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath of Michigan City could well be the guy that Democrats turn to. In the interim, NWI’s fate will rest on local Republican legislators who are in the majority in both houses of the General Assembly.
It will be incumbent on Reps. Ed Soliday, of Valparaiso, Michael Aylesworth of Hebron and Hal Slager of Schererville and Sens. Ed Charbonneau of Valparaiso and Rick Niemeyer of Lowell to see to it that the region isn’t forgotten as it feels it was under Gov. Mike Pence.
Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years.