Many Lake County candidates lining up for more helpings

2013-08-25T05:00:00Z 2013-08-25T21:57:06Z Many Lake County candidates lining up for more helpingsBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
August 25, 2013 5:00 am  • 

CROWN POINT | Political foodies can feast on upcoming fundraisers that signal the 2014 elections are only nine months away.

Lake County Treasurer John Petalas will have breakfast for political supporters later this month. Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.'s annual steak fry, and County Commissioner Gerry Scheub's pig and lamb roast are just around the corner.

County Council members Dan Dernulc, R-Highland, and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, and State Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, plan to serve up an Oktoberfest this fall.

With all these candidates in the kitchen, the aroma of re-election is in the air.

However, not all elected Lake County officials follow the convention of holding a fundraiser and then declaring themselves hungry for another term in office.

Some of those asking for money are being coy about their political future, like Scheub, who vowed last year he was retiring from politics, or McDermott, who likes his job but can't decide if he wants to become the longest-serving mayor in Hammond's history.

Among the hundreds who will campaign next year for federal, state, county, township, municipal and precinct committee office will be many well-known incumbents.

County Clerk Mike A. Brown, Sheriff John Buncich, County Commissioner Roosevelt Allen, Prosecutor Bernard Carter and six of the seven county council members said they want another bite at the apple.

Petalas, who is blocked from seeking a new term as county treasurer by term limits, will run for county auditor, while Auditor Peggy Kotona, who has the same term-limit problem, will be running for county treasurer.

Councilman Jerome Prince said he soon will decide whether to run for a new term on the council or another office.

Incumbent county assessor Hank Adams, who stunned the county's political community by becoming the first Republican in 50 years to win a countywide office, said he will make a decision about his next move in the coming weeks, but it won't be sending out tickets to some fundraising event.

"I don't usually have fundraisers anyway," Adams said.

Councilman David Hamm said he will be running to keep his council seat next year, but also views the business of begging for money distasteful.

"I've been to some where there was hardly anyone else in attendance and some so jammed packed, you couldn't get in. I don't fault anybody for having them, but I always felt that they leave a sense of obligation," Hamm said. "When I was on the (Hammond) City Council for three terms, I never had one."

McDermott, on the other hand, said, "I have fundraisers all the time."

He said as chairman of the Lake County Democratic party, he needs the contributions in his name to have the $30,000 he often spreads around to help other candidates on the ballot.

But as for himself, "I haven't announced what my plans are. I have to talk with my wife and decide. I also have people tugging at me to look downstate. But this job is still is my full-time gig. I think I have options as long as I keep doing a good job."

Scheub proclaimed after his victory last year he would leave politics after his current term ends in three and half years, but lately has been less categorical about retiring. 

"I don't want to say anything about that," he said.

He said his pig roast next month includes a conventional fundraiser for contractors, but the largest number of invitees don't pay admission and eat free on him.

McDermott said he cannot believe Scheub will retire.

"Ever since he disowned the Democratic party, we haven't spoken, but he doesn't look like a guy ready to quit, either. His district is going to change a lot, so if he does run for another term, I have a feeling he will make himself more appealing to Republicans," McDermott said.

Scheub and McDermott broke recently over Scheub's opposition to passage of the county income tax.

Scheub, a lifelong Democrat, laughingly responded.

"If McDermott thinks I'm running as a Republican, then God bless him. He's mad at me, anyhow."

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