It doesn’t seem right that a mere 223 Democratic precinct committeemen had the power a week ago to decide who will be the next Lake County sheriff.

That’s too much power for such an important position.

But that’s what the law says, and a group of folks wearing green T-shirts made Oscar Martinez Jr. the new sheriff. Interestingly, more than 100 committeemen failed to show up for the caucus.

Martinez made two previous bids for sheriff in Democratic primary elections but didn’t come close.

But Martinez never quit and brought a passion to the caucus that the other candidates couldn’t seem to muster.

There are a lot of nuances to a precinct caucus, and this one had its share.

Foremost, perhaps, was former Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, who really had no business in the race.

Scheub pulled 44 suburban votes on the first ballot. Had he not been a candidate, those likely would have gone to Schererville Police Chief David Dowling. With those votes, Dowling would have led after one ballot, and who knows where the momentum might have carried him.

Martinez’s first job will be to win the respect of county police officers.

He may have gotten off to a shaky start in that respect.

After the caucus, he said he would analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the department.

“I’m not going to make any major changes immediately,” he said last weekend.

Well, when he wa lked into work on Monday, the first head rolled. Two days later, a slew of others fell by the wayside. Makes you wonder if he meant what he said on Saturday.

Former Sheriff Stephen Stiglich was elected in a party caucus that he likened to “an exhibition game.”

Stiglich went on to say, “now the real season starts.”

And so it does for Martinez, who will have to count on himself — not party leaders — to continue in his role as sheriff. And he’ll have to move beyond his Hispanic base.

He’s likely to face at least two main opponents in “the real season.” And, yes, race and ethnicity will come into play. It always does in Lake County.

One candidate will be county Clerk Mike Brown, who is black. He opted not to run in the caucus, knowing he had a better chance to win a primary as a non-incumbent.

The other is Dowling, who thinks he can draw general support as opposed to the support of party leaders who dictate precinct elections.

And there could be others, such as attorney and former police officer Thomas O’Donnell, former Sheriff Roy Dominguez, veteran police officer Dan Murchek and Richard Ligon, a black retired U.S. Postal Service inspector and two-time sheriff candidate.

In the meantime, Martinez has eight months to prove himself.

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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