Democrats wanted Lake County Sheriff John Buncich in the saddle for four more years.
The sheriff waved to a cheering crowd chanting "J.B, J.B." Tuesday night as he entered Avalon Manor in Hobart to proclaim victory.
His two challengers, Richard D. Ligon and county police Sgt. Oscar Martinez, called for a groundswell of public support for a change in leadership of the Sheriff's Department.
They chastised his spending nearly $30 million in the past three years in additional health care services for county jail inmates and infrastructure improvements to the lockup as wasteful. They hoped for voter outrage to make this the most hotly contested race in the spring.
But most of the county's registered voters were missing in action Tuesday, as turnout was estimated at about 12 percent.
Buncich's name recognition and his endorsements from the Lake County Democratic precinct organization was expected to fill the sails of his campaign while his opponents waited.
Buncich, 68, of Lowell, has served three four-year terms as sheriff between 1995 and the present and has 42 years of law enforcement experience in every division of the Sheriff's Department. He oversees a budget of more than $26 million and a payroll of more than 400 employees.
He inherited a county jail cited for severe civil rights deficiencies.
Buncich said his administration has achieved 60 percent compliance with federal standards and is committed to a complete end of federal oversight and 100 percent compliance.
"This is the toughest election I've been involved in. I was so tired I was on auto pilot," the sheriff told supporters.
He thanked organized labor and "the men and women in law enforcement."
He said he will work for completion of E-911 consolidation of all county police, fire and emergency medical communications while continuing intensive drug and gang enforcement.
His victory Tuesday means his two opponents must bide their time for another four years.
Martinez, 44, of Crown Point, has more than 20 years on the county police force. He has been prominent as creator and leader of the Highway Drug Interdiction Unit for detaining drug couriers traveling Lake County's interstates and recovering large stores of cocaine and drug profits in hidden compartments of their automobiles.
Richard D. Ligon, 66, of Gary, is a former police commissioner for Gary Police Department, has 36 years of military experience and served 23 years in law enforcement that includes being a parole agent, a juvenile probation officer and an investigator for the U.S. postal service.
Republicans appeared to have chosen Dan Bursac to run for sheriff in the fall.
The GOP was given the choice of two law enforcement veterans.
John Ramos Jr., 52, of Griffith, has more than 25 years in law enforcement, is an Indiana Law Enforcement Academy instructor and has been a field training officer, a crime scene investigator and a SWAT team leader.
Bursac, 57, of Merrillville, is a 24-year veteran of the county police force and is a GOP precinct committeeman.
He said his long experience with the department would help him cut wasteful spending, improve the condition of the county jail for inmates and department staff, and satisfy the U.S. Justice Department's requirements.