RICH JAMES: GOP would scold Dems for acting like this

2013-11-06T00:00:00Z 2013-11-06T11:04:11Z RICH JAMES: GOP would scold Dems for acting like thisBy Rich James nwitimes.com
November 06, 2013 12:00 am  • 

There’s no easy way to sugarcoat the Lake County Republican precinct organization’s replacement of Hank Adams as county assessor.

It featured county GOP chief Dan Dernulc looking more like Don Quixote than a party leader.

And the two candidates — Jolie Covaciu and Debra Johnson — were pawns in a misplayed political game.

And the sad part of it all is state GOP Chairman Tim Berry condoned the whole charade before the vote.

Berry said, “I applaud Dernulc and the Lake County Republican Central Committee for outside-the-box thinking and leadership with regards to finding Hank’s replacement.”

That’s poppycock. It is manipulation of the political system. It wasn’t pretty.

Neither candidate was terribly sure of her political persuasion, having voted in both Republican and Democratic primaries over the past two decades.

While each woman contended she was a Republican, Covaciu took a Democratic ballot three of the last four times she voted.

Johnson voted Democratic the last two times she voted. Her interest in public service apparently waned in 2011 and 2012 when she didn’t vote in the primaries.

Given their checkered voting records, the two women went to Dernulc seeking special dispensation to be able to run as Republicans.

Dernulc blessed Johnson but gave Covaciu the cold shoulder. So much for the politics of inclusion.

“I like both of the candidates. I’m saying (Johnson) is the best candidate to be a Republican for this caucus,” Dernulc said days before the vote.

And just what does “the best candidate to be a Republican” really mean? What is this, a tryout for the senior class play?

Yet the best part of this melodrama is what Johnson pulled to qualify as a candidate.

Because an assessor candidate has to be a property owner — and Johnson wasn’t — desperate measures were needed.

So Johnson did what she had to do. One week before the caucus election, she bought a vacant lot in Lake Station. A vacant lot — clean or trashed — was all it took to be qualified.

Can you imagine what Republicans would have done to a Democrat had he toyed with the political process?

Republicans would have called for a grand jury investigation.

But alas, not all Republicans condoned what Johnson did.

Veteran Munster Republican Pete Karagan* wasn’t pleased with Johnson’s land scam.

“It’s something I didn’t expect a Republican would do,” Karagan said.

You’re right, Pete. And Democrats and Covaciu are having the last laugh.

Covaciu won 56-52.

Not only did Dernulc lose, he also was able to turn out only a fifth of the GOP committeemen for the caucus.

What was that about the dawning of a new day for Lake County Republicans? Welcome to the big leagues, Mr. Dernulc. Do you think you’re ready for prime time?

*This column has been changed from the original, to correct Pete Karagan's name and city.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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