MICHIGAN CITY — Democratic Mayor Ron Meer lost his bid for reelection in the aftermath of a tumultuous week that included felony charges being filed against him.
With all precincts reporting, Meer garnered 28.5% of the votes to Republican candidate Duane Parry's 29.9%, according to the LaPorte County's unofficial election results released Tuesday night.
An independent candidate, Damon Carnes, trailed in No. 3 spot, with 26.7%. A second independent candidate, James T. LaRocco, garnered 15%.
The mood among more than 50 Meer supporters turned gloomy after the mayor, holding on to a narrow lead all night, fell 22 votes behind Parry with just a half dozen or so precincts left to be counted.
Meer did not appear until the outcome was final.
Hugs and sad faces were not in short supply as Meer, fighting back a few tears and trying to remain positive, greeted the crowd.
"How many people get to be the mayor of a city for eight years? It was a great honor," Meer said.
Meer is also a former city councilman and worked for the sanitary district for more than 20 years.
"We got a lot accomplished, I can tell you that," Meer said.
Afterward, Meer said the past couple of weeks have been a sad time for him and his family.
He was charged last week in LaPorte Superior Court with six felonies and two misdemeanors in connection with a dispute he had with leaders of the Michigan City Police Department following the arrest of Meer's stepson, Adam Bray.
Police Chief Mark Swistek and two assistant chiefs announced their resignation on Oct. 24, after Meer requested that the police department withdraw its participation in the LaPorte County Drug Task Force, the joint law enforcement unit that arrested his stepson.
Meer, who hired prominent attorney Scott King to defend him, has called for a special prosecutor in the case. He alleged Prosecutor John Lake targeted Bray and charged him last month with possession of cocaine, possession of heroin, unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious felon and resisting law enforcement. The charges against Meer came five days before the general election.
Meer said the criminal allegations ordered sealed by the La Porte County Prosecutor’s office somehow leaked out prematurely.
"That could have waited until after the election but it was deliberately done. I do believe that," he said.
Meer, who opposed Lake in the 2018 prosecutor’s race, said he based his allegations on what a confidential information involved in the arrest told him voluntarily at his residence.
Lake has strongly denied politics had anything to do with the charges against Meer and the 33-year old Bray, who has a prior conviction for dealing cocaine.
Parry, 70, an outspoken critic of the mayor when he was on the city council a few years ago, was soundly defeated by Meer in 2015.
He felt the recent controversy involving the mayor and his family worked to his advantage.
"That’s the way life is. We see it on a national level. If you look in the history books these type of things have happened. Unfortunately, this one happened now for Mr. Meer and I benefited from it," he said.
He called his platform once he takes office "The Reconstruction of Michigan City."
Parry said the current and previous mayor, Chuck Oberlie, focused too much on costly amenities for visitors.
"They were building crystal palaces that aren’t for the people of Michigan City. Michigan City is for the people and needs to go back to the people. That’s what I’m talking about," Parry said.