RICH JAMES: McDermott wants Wieser to run against Slager

2014-01-19T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: McDermott wants Wieser to run against SlagerBy Rich James nwitimes.com
January 19, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Lake County Democratic Chairman Thomas McDermott Jr. wants Jim Wieser in the worst way.

He wants him to run against state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, in the 15th House District.

McDermott appears to be on the verge of filling a vital ballot slot in his quest to help the Democratic Party eat away at the supermajority Republicans' hold in the House.

So what makes a financially secure attorney – with more years behind him than ahead – give serious thought about returning to the public sector? Years ago, he served on the Highland Town Council and the Lake County Council.

Well, as it was explained to me, it pretty much started at a meeting at Wicker Park in early November.

Wieser, who has been a party stalwart for decades, was among the 45 to 50 members of McDermott’s inner circle at the meeting. New state chairman John Zody was on hand.

Toward the end of the session, which focused on the 2014 elections, McDermott asked if anyone else had a comment.

One of those at the meeting said Wieser stood and talked at length about what the Republicans were doing to Indiana.

Wieser, I was told by an attendee, said, “The road this governor is taking us down scares the 'bleep' out of me.”

When Wieser was finished, there was a chant of “Wieser, Wieser, Wieser.”

In the days that followed, the pressure to get Wieser to run began to mount.

The 15th House District was drawn by Republicans for Slager, who is serving his first term. While the district tilts Republican, Slager beat Democrat Tom O’Donnell by a scant 435 or so votes in 2012.

O’Donnell carried the Dyer, Schererville and Griffith portions of the district, but lost badly in St. John.

It’s often said that if you don’t like what’s going on in government, you need to put your name on the ballot.

That apparently is what Wieser would be doing.

Wieser has chastised Gov. Mike Pence and fellow Republicans for their attacks on Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz and public education. Wieser’s wife is a teacher.

It likely would be an expensive election. During the 2012 race, Slager raised almost $200,000. About $130,000 of that came from GOP political action committees.

Money shouldn’t be a problem for Wieser. Democrats know how to raise money. It is one of the things they do best.

And Wieser is well-liked by politicians on both sides of the aisle, not just because of his political demeanor, but also his legal involvement in the public sector.

Beating Slager wouldn’t be easy.

But Wieser would have a couple of extras going for him.

One, Republicans tend to stay home in nonpresidential years.

Second, although Pence’s name won’t be on the ballot, what he stands for certainly will. And Slager might have difficulty distancing himself from an increasingly unpopular governor.

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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