There was a time when the Lake County Democratic Party had bloodbaths every two years when it came to the nominees for county offices.

Aside from the personal attacks, the financial implications were staggering.

The competition was amazing for offices that back then paid about $30,000 annually.

That all pretty much changed when Bob Stiglich took over the party chairmanship almost 20 years ago.

Stiglich wanted to bring an end to the party fights and wasteful spending. He said it made more sense to channel the energy and resources against Republicans in the fall.

To that end, Stiglich convinced the party to adopt a policy that essentially said one good term deserved another.

Stiglich convinced the municipal organizations to support the incumbent if he or she had done a good job in office. It worked.

Now Stiglich is gone and no longer does the party sing Kumbaya on the eve of primary elections.

The primary fights for countywide offices are about to intensify, in part because of Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott.

The worst-kept secret in Lake County is that McDermott wants to replace U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky in Congress.

The problem is McDermott knows he can’t beat the incumbent.

So next year, McDermott will go after long-time county officials who cut their political teeth with Visclosky.

Among those being targeted are county Auditor John Petalas, Treasurer Peggy Katona and Prosecutor Bernard Carter. You can count on McDermott fielding a candidate against David Dowling for sheriff.

The thinking is that the more people indebted to you, the better your chances of winning an election. It is a show of strength.

I suspect McDermott is looking to a congressional race in the future — unless he is delusional about beating Visclosky.

McDermott began building his power base with the election of his wife last year as Lake Circuit Court judge. Marissa McDermott acknowledged her last name was a major factor in her beating incumbent George Paras.

The question is whether challengers to Petalas, Katona and others will be successful.

I suspect it wouldn’t happen if Stiglich was still around. Those officials have been pretty good officeholders and deserve to continue.

McDermott has been a pretty good mayor and has a political future.

The question is whether he will be burning bridges en route to a run for higher office.

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

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