Election 1998. The election forecast

1998-10-18T00:00:00Z Election 1998. The election forecastKEVIN CORCORAN nwitimes.com
October 18, 1998 12:00 am  • 

This year's election could bring many changes for Northwest Indiana's

contingent of 11 state representatives and six state senators - or few at all.

Voters will have their say Nov. 3 when all 100 Indiana House seats and

half of the Indiana Senate's 50 seats are up for election.

The biggest shift could come if Republicans retake the lower chamber,

causing the region's mostly Democratic delegation to lose sway.

"If Republicans control, it means the Marion County forces will be in

charge of the state," warned Sen. Bill Alexa, D-Valparaiso. "We won't be

getting nearly what we've been getting for Northwest Indiana."

For the past two years, Democrats from the region have held two

significant leadership posts and presided over standing committees that drafted

legislation affecting local government, the judicial system, health care,

social services and insurance.

But Rep. Timothy Fesko, R-Munster and the lone Lake County Republican in

the House, plays down the notion any loss of power for Democrats would

significantly affect their constituents in Lake and Porter counties.

As it is, many Democratic initiatives die in the Republican-controlled

Senate, he said.

"We are of the same faith," Fesko said. "We have a better chance of

success."

Democrats concede the GOP will keep control of the upper chamber. But

House Democrats say they win more concessions for urban residents in the state

budget, particularly public school students, than Republicans negotiating with

the Senate would.

Despite partisan differences, the Northwest Indiana delegation has worked

together under Republican control to accomplish projects in the past, said John

Hammond, a Republican contract lobbyist with the Indianapolis law firm of

Johnson Smith.

"Working as a coalition, Democrats could still be effective for

communities up there," Hammond said.

In an unusually quiet campaign season, three things are known for sure:

Democratic Reps. Ron Tabaczynski of Hammond and Esther Wilson of Portage won't

return. Nor will Lonnie Randolph, a former Democratic senator from East

Chicago who resigned this summer to become East Chicago City Court judge.

Precinct committeemen appointed funeral director Sam Smith Jr. of East

Chicago on Aug. 24 to replace Randolph, but Smith won't face election for two

years.

Democrats also appear poised to hold onto the open seats vacated by the

voluntary departures of Tabaczynski and Wilson.

Hammond Police Capt. Linda Lawson, a Democrat, is expected to win her race

against Michael Alan Tiltges of Hammond.

"If there's a dead cinch outside of an incumbent who's unopposed, it's

Linda Lawson," said Rep. Chester Dobis, D-Merrillville.

Teachers union official Duane Cheney of Portage also is favored to win,

but Republican John M. Cannon of Portage is giving him a run, local lawmakers

say.

"Both candidates are working hard, and I think it's going to be a pivotal

district," said Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton. "It'll be decided by 100 votes

either way."

But Alexa predicted an easy victory for Cheney in the 54 percent Democratic

district if there's a "decent" Democratic turnout.

Political strategists say freshman Rep. Robert Kuzman, D-Crown Point,

should beat Republican Nick Gasparovic in a narrowly Republican district.

They credit Kuzman with running a high-energy campaign. He's also

succeeded in lobbying Gov. Frank O'Bannon's administration to allow countywide

toll-free calling in the Ameritech service territory and legislatively forcing

a division of riverboat money in Lake County among municipalities without

casinos.

But Republicans hope to paint Kuzman as a politician who says one thing

and does another, using votes in which Democrats defeated Republican proposals

to phase out the inventory tax and move welfare off the property tax rolls

against him.

"Kuzman puts on a great front," said House Republican Leader Paul

Mannweiler, R-Indianapolis.

On Mannweiler's side of the aisle, Fesko is a favorite to beat Libertarian

Michael D. Backlund of Cedar Lake.

In the Senate, Sen. Sandra Dempsey, R-Munster, is in a rematch against

Hammond City Councilman Frank Mrvan, a Democrat the Republican-dominated Senate

unseated four years ago in a controversial recount.

"I got more done in four years than he did in 16," Dempsey said. "It

sounds blunt, but that's a fact."

Dempsey's break with her party on legislation to eviscerate the prevailing

wage law has won her support from many of the building trades, although some

crafts are supporting Mrvan. Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said she's

optimistic about Mrvan's chances because he's campaigning a lot harder than

last time.

Rogers and Alexa are among three Democratic senators - including Rose Ann

Antich of Merrillville - who won't face election until 2000.

Most Northwest Indiana lawmakers on the ballot are unopposed.

Besides Ayres and Dobis, these include: Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary; Rep.

Earl Harris, D-East Chicago; Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary; Rep. Dan Stevenson,

D-Highland; Rep. Jesse Villalpando, D-Griffith; and Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar

Lake.

That makes some prognostications easy, said Dobis, who predicts another

two-year term for himself.

[another portion of the story (item 2) follows...]

This year's election could bring many changes for Northwest Indiana's

contingent of 11 state representatives and six state senators - or few at all.

Voters will have their say Nov. 3 when all 100 Indiana House seats and

half of the Indiana Senate's 50 seats are up for election.

The biggest shift could come if Republicans retake the lower chamber,

causing the region's mostly Democratic delegation to lose sway.

"If Republicans control, it means the Marion County forces will be in

charge of the state," warned Sen. Bill Alexa, D-Valparaiso. "We won't be

getting nearly what we've been getting for Northwest Indiana."

For the past two years, Democrats from the region have held two

significant leadership posts and presided over standing committees that drafted

legislation affecting local government, the judicial system, health care,

social services and insurance.

But Rep. Timothy Fesko, R-Munster and the lone Lake County Republican in

the House, plays down the notion any loss of power for Democrats would

significantly affect their constituents in Lake and Porter counties.

As it is, many Democratic initiatives die in the Republican-controlled

Senate, he said.

"We are of the same faith," Fesko said. "We have a better chance of

success."

Democrats concede the GOP will keep control of the upper chamber. But

House Democrats say they win more concessions for urban residents in the state

budget, particularly public school students, than Republicans negotiating with

the Senate would.

Despite partisan differences, the Northwest Indiana delegation has worked

together under Republican control to accomplish projects in the past, said John

Hammond, a Republican contract lobbyist with the Indianapolis law firm of

Johnson Smith.

"Working as a coalition, Democrats could still be effective for

communities up there," Hammond said.

In an unusually quiet campaign season, three things are known for sure:

Democratic Reps. Ron Tabaczynski of Hammond and Esther Wilson of Portage won't

return. Nor will Lonnie Randolph, a former Democratic senator from East

Chicago who resigned this summer to become East Chicago City Court judge.

Precinct committeemen appointed funeral director Sam Smith Jr. of East

Chicago on Aug. 24 to replace Randolph, but Smith won't face election for two

years.

Democrats also appear poised to hold onto the open seats vacated by the

voluntary departures of Tabaczynski and Wilson.

Hammond Police Capt. Linda Lawson, a Democrat, is expected to win her race

against Michael Alan Tiltges of Hammond.

"If there's a dead cinch outside of an incumbent who's unopposed, it's

Linda Lawson," said Rep. Chester Dobis, D-Merrillville.

Teachers union official Duane Cheney of Portage also is favored to win,

but Republican John M. Cannon of Portage is giving him a run, local lawmakers

say.

"Both candidates are working hard, and I think it's going to be a pivotal

district," said Rep. Ralph Ayres, R-Chesterton. "It'll be decided by 100 votes

either way."

But Alexa predicted an easy victory for Cheney in the 54 percent Democratic

district if there's a "decent" Democratic turnout.

Political strategists say freshman Rep. Robert Kuzman, D-Crown Point,

should beat Republican Nick Gasparovic in a narrowly Republican district.

They credit Kuzman with running a high-energy campaign. He's also

succeeded in lobbying Gov. Frank O'Bannon's administration to allow countywide

toll-free calling in the Ameritech service territory and legislatively forcing

a division of riverboat money in Lake County among municipalities without

casinos.

But Republicans hope to paint Kuzman as a politician who says one thing

and does another, using votes in which Democrats defeated Republican proposals

to phase out the inventory tax and move welfare off the property tax rolls

against him.

"Kuzman puts on a great front," said House Republican Leader Paul

Mannweiler, R-Indianapolis.

On Mannweiler's side of the aisle, Fesko is a favorite to beat Libertarian

Michael D. Backlund of Cedar Lake.

In the Senate, Sen. Sandra Dempsey, R-Munster, is in a rematch against

Hammond City Councilman Frank Mrvan, a Democrat the Republican-dominated Senate

unseated four years ago in a controversial recount.

"I got more done in four years than he did in 16," Dempsey said. "It

sounds blunt, but that's a fact."

Dempsey's break with her party on legislation to eviscerate the prevailing

wage law has won her support from many of the building trades, although some

crafts are supporting Mrvan. Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said she's

optimistic about Mrvan's chances because he's campaigning a lot harder than

last time.

Rogers and Alexa are among three Democratic senators - including Rose Ann

Antich of Merrillville - who won't face election until 2000.

Most Northwest Indiana lawmakers on the ballot are unopposed.

Besides Ayres and Dobis, these include: Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary; Rep.

Earl Harris, D-East Chicago; Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary; Rep. Dan Stevenson,

D-Highland; Rep. Jesse Villalpando, D-Griffith; and Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar

Lake.

That makes some prognostications easy, said Dobis, who predicts another

two-year term for himself.

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