MERRILLVILLE – Election after election, Lake County Democrats deliver for the party. They did so last November, but the massive vote totals were overshadowed by the losses of each of the Democratic statewide candidates. The Nov. 8 results were fairly typical; Lake County Democrats delivered a huge plurality, but the party suffered big losses on the state level.
And yet, the strongest county Democratic party in the state doesn’t received any respect, according to Jim Wieser, the newly elected county chairman. “We don’t have a strong voice in the state,” Wieser said shortly after taking over as chairman.
That lack of respect, Wieser said, has to change. And, he sees a couple of ways to make that happen. One way is for the party to make regular stops in Indianapolis to “pound on the door.” The party, Wieser said, needs a bigger voice in shaping statewide policy and elections, including a larger role for Lake County’s Young Democrats, a group that outgoing Chairman John Buncich energized.
It wasn’t by Wieser’s direction that had Lake County natives – former state Rep. John Aguliera and state Sen. Lonnie Randolph – running for state party chairman a week ago. While each lost to incumbent John Zody, the message was sent that Lake County wants to play a bigger role in the party.
Wieser also said it is important for party leadership to convince the rank and file that “Republicans are taking everything away from you.” Wieser was suggesting that Republicans were sucking in Democrats with issues involving God, guns and gays, while at the same time taking away middle class rights. Yet, Wieser said he knows that little will change for Lake County Democrats unless the party’s image changes.
“If we don’t address the issues of corruption or the perception of corruption, we are not going to get anywhere,” Wieser said.
The new chairman said he intends to do that with the help of Calvin Bellamy, head of the Shared Ethics Commission in Northwest Indiana. Bellamy has had considerable success teaching government employees in Northwest Indiana what is right and wrong for elected officials and workers in the public sector.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. He is a columnist for the NWI Times.