MERRILLVILLE – These aren’t the best of times for Lake County Republican Chairman Dan Dernulc. It won’t be a very good fall election. And, Dernulc knows it. And, in large part it’s his fault. For starters, just one of the Democratic candidates for countywide offices in Lake County has opposition.

While Republicans rarely have little success in countywide races, they almost always field a full slate. And, a few years back, Republican Hank Adams was elected county assessor because Democrats nominated a candidate with so much baggage that even party faithful couldn’t go along. Adams died in office.

The only Republican for countywide office is Dan Bursac, who is a perennial candidate who this year faces a weaker Democrat in Sheriff Oscar Martinez. And then there is the County Council where none of the five Democrats has opposition.

The two council districts held by Republicans face Democratic opposition. One is Dernulc, himself, while the other is much more significant and has Democrats thinking they can win a seat they haven’t held for decades.

In the 7th District, Republican incumbent Eldon Strong, part of the old guard, lost the primary to Christian Jorgenson by two votes.

Democrats, however, are far from conceding the fall election to Jorgensen. Running on the Democratic side is Philip Kuiper, a very popular former Lowell town councilman.

While south Lake County is generally Republican, Democrats think they have a chance because of the divisions resulting from a bitter primary and Kuiper’s popularity. With so few Democrats opposed this fall, the party is energized in that unopposed Democrats have vowed to help Democrats with opposition, including Kuiper. That help is expected to come in the form of money – since the unopposed don’t need it – and door-to-door support.

The Democrats are especially high on Kuiper because Republicans remain in disarray since the Strong loss.

Democrats also are chuckling over what happened in West Creek Township in southwest Lake County. That was home to the late state senator and county commissioner Ernest Niemeyer.

One of the West Creek Township Board members died this year. The spouse will serve out the remainder of the term, but Dernulc didn’t act quickly enough to get someone on the fall ballot. And yes, Democrats do have a candidate and will have a seat on the West Creek Township Board for the first time, perhaps, in history.

Republicans also don’t have many state representative candidates in the districts that lean Democratic. But Democrats seem pleased that Chris Chyung is running against incumbent Hal Slager, who is seeking a fourth term.

Democrats aren’t claiming victory, but feel Chyung, a progressive, will make a run at Slager. 

Rich James has been writing about politics and government for almost 40 years. He is retired from the Post-Tribune, a newspaper born in Gary.