RICH JAMES: Expect strong turnout of black voters

2014-04-30T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Expect strong turnout of black votersBy Rich James
April 30, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Speculation in Lake County Democratic circles prior to a primary election is all about voter turnout.

A heavy turnout can be good for some and a disadvantage for others.

And in Democratic circles, there always is great speculation about the turnout in the black community. A heavy black vote can be good for both white and black candidates. The same can be said about a substantial white vote.

A strong black vote can be particularly important in a contested primary where there isn’t a black candidate. And it usually is important to a black candidate with a white or Hispanic opponent. It’s not a racial thing, simply a political reality.

Of course, winning a primary for a countywide office is tantamount to election because Lake County is so heavily Democratic.

I anticipate a substantial black vote on Tuesday for three main reasons.

First is the Lake County sheriff’s race with Richard Ligon, who is black, and one of two challengers to Sheriff John Buncich, who is white.

There never has been a black sheriff in Lake County, and there likely won’t be one this year. Although Ligon will draw more black votes, Buncich, who has been attentive to Gary, won’t do badly.

The second reason is the Calumet Township trustee’s race, where incumbent Mary Elgin may be the underdog against Gary Councilwoman Kimberly Robinson. Each is black.

Largely because of the services the office provides to the poor, the trustee is a high-profile official. Dozier Allen held the post for 32 years before losing to Elgin in 2002. Elgin seemed destined for the same longevity until factors within and beyond her control cast a pall over the election.

And there should be a strong black vote because of the county assessor’s race that pits Jerome Prince against Michael Troxell.

Troxell is a white town councilman from Schererville in the heart of suburbia.

Prince is a black county councilman from Gary in the heart of the urban Rust Belt.

The Prince/Troxell race is different from Ligon/Buncich for a number of reasons.

Prince has enjoyed considerable success in the largely white communities during the endorsement process. It says something about his outgoing, gregarious demeanor.

While Troxell and Prince each have strong qualifications, Prince seemingly has an edge because of the years he spent in the Calumet Township assessor’s office.

It also is interesting that Prince is giving up a secure, lucrative position as a county councilman to take a chance at becoming county assessor. That says something about a man’s character.

It is fair to say that Buncich will fare better in the black community than will Troxell.

And it’s fair to say Prince will fare much better in white suburbia than will Ligon.

Will that make Prince a winner? It may well ride on voter turnout.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at The opinions are the writer’s.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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