GARY | In the shadow of a siege by federal law enforcement and state and local lawmakers, the Calumet Township trustee's office is poised to receive a new leader in 2015.
Democratic challenger Kimberly Robinson, a Gary city councilwoman, appeared to have a significant lead over incumbent Trustee Mary Elgin Tuesday night. Robinson would run in November against Republican primary winner Dorita Lee, R-Gary, in the November general election. Lee was unopposed.
Elgin, D-Gary, faced what many county political observers called an uphill battle to reclaim her seat. In 2013, the Indiana Legislature passed a law requiring Elgin to bring her office's poor-relief tax rate closer to the levels of the rest of the state.
And in March, FBI and IRS agents raided the Calumet Township trustee's office, removing several boxes of evidence and at least one computer as part of a federal investigation. No charges have been filed in that case.
Robinson, also a Gary Democrat, ran her campaign with some of the Elgin administration's controversies in her cross hairs. Robinson also was endorsed by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.
Throughout the campaign, Robinson criticized Elgin for filing a lawsuit against the state rather than working with the governor, legislators and the town of Griffith to meet the spending reform law's benchmarks.
Robinson also promised Tuesday to extend an olive branch to Griffith, which may eventually be allowed by state law to secede from Calumet Township if certain state-mandated tax rate parameters aren't met.
"We're winning Griffith at this point, and that makes me happy," Robinson said about 8 p.m. as early voting returns were coming in.
Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa, a Republican, said he wasn't certain Robinson would be the antidote for what ails the township.
"It doesn't matter who wins," Ryfa said. "The system is so far broken, I don't think it can be fixed."
Elgin claimed her office had taken steps to cut expenses, park some take-home cars in the township fleet and deny applications of disingenuous people, who resided outside of the township but sought poor relief from her office.