MARC CHASE: Desperate measures can be shining examples

2013-10-29T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: Desperate measures can be shining examplesMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
October 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Desperate times indeed call for desperate measures in some cases. But a sign of good leadership in politics is tackling a desperate measure with thoughtfulness -- acting in the best possible interest of taxpayers.

Lake County Republicans have been up against the wall lately trying to pick a successor for late county Assessor Hank Adams. Adams scored a rare GOP win for a countywide office in 2010, and his recent death created a party dilemma.

Most Republicans and Democrats agree -- privately if not out in the open -- that whomever the Republican caucus picks to serve out the remainder of Adams' term very well could be a sacrificial lamb for the November 2014 general election. Democrats in this Democratic county are seen as a near-lock to win back the assessor's seat.

To find a qualified candidate to endorse -- and have the slimmest of prayers to carry forward Adams' many reforms -- Lake County GOP Chairman Dan Dernulc thought outside of the box.

Dernulc is endorsing current county assessor's office employee Debra Johnson for the seat, to be decided in a Republican Party caucus Friday.

Cedar Lake resident Jolie Covaciu also said she is throwing her hat into the ring for the GOP nod, which ultimately will be decided by the county's Republican precinct committeemen.

I make no judgments here about the value of one candidate over another, but I do appreciate the sentiment of Dernulc's endorsement of Johnson.

You see, Johnson has not always voted as a Republican. In a recent election cycle, Johnson voted in the Democratic primary.

But she appears to have been a favorite employee of Adams and worked in the past for former GOP Center Township Assessor Martha Wheeler.

Dernulc, the region's Republican General Assembly delegates and the state party leaders -- all of whom Dernulc said blessed Johnson's candidacy -- deserve praise for looking beyond the party line in choosing their candidate to replace Adams.

Any candidate for county assessor requires what is called a "level three" assessor's certification from the state. Johnson has that already.

Dernulc said Johnson also is the person Adams would want to replace him. Adams' widow Jean Shepherd, who is St. John Township's trustee, backed that up with an endorsement of Johnson.

County assessors need to own property in the county they represent. Until a few days ago, Johnson, of Crown Point, was a dwelling renter, not a county property owner.

But she's serious about taking the job and appears to have satisfied the ownership requirement last week by purchasing land in Lake Station.

Johnson may have no chance at all to defeat the Democratic assessor's race nominee in the November 2014 general election.

But there is some great symbolism here we all should note. Dernulc has considered credentials and track record, not strictly party affiliation or voting record, by endorsing Johnson.

Given recent federal government shutdowns induced by partisan extremism on both sides, we can only hope this local example spreads to other levels of government.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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