INDIANAPOLIS | A rare Indiana House race without an incumbent running produced close results Tuesday for the Republican and Democratic nominations in the 11th District.
On the Republican side, Michael Aylesworth, of Hebron, who previously served as a Porter County commissioner and as a member of the Porter County Council, appeared to defeat Michael Mears, of Lowell, the police chief of Lynwood, Ill.
At press time, Aylesworth's overwhelming vote margin in Porter County seemed likely to put him over the top, despite Mears' lead among Lake County voters.
The district includes roughly the southern third of both Lake and Porter counties.
Aylesworth, 71, said he's excited to have the chance to "go to the Legislature and bring my years of experience down there."
"I have a broad range of background and experience that I think will serve me well," Aylesworth said.
Aylesworth is seeking to replace state Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, who gave up his House seat to run for the Indiana Senate this year.
He likely will face James Metro, of Cedar Lake, a member of the Lake County Plan Commission and chairman of the Cedar Lake Democratic Party.
Metro appeared to have narrowly defeated Phillip Kuiper, a 12-year member of the Lowell Town Council.
"I had a very good opponent; we both campaigned very, very hard," Metro said.
Metro expects the extraordinary effort that went into winning the Democratic primary will help him win the general election as well.
"I feel pretty confident, because we had such a hard primary and had to work extremely hard, that we've had a great opportunity to get our name out and known in a lot of places that we wouldn't have in an uncontested primary," Metro said. "So I feel we're very prepared and ready for a battle in the fall."
Aylesworth also said he expects a tough general election fight. An open-seat race is certain to attract money and support from across the state for both candidates, he said.
"It's nominally a Republican district, but in politics you never know, there's nothing certain," Aylesworth said.
Randy Palmateer, business manager of the Northwest Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council, said organized labor will back Metro because he represents the middle class.
"The middle class needs to take back the Statehouse because we're getting our butts kicked," Palmateer said. "So Jimmy winning today, to me, is a beautiful thing."