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And they're off: Municipal candidates get an early start on the 2019 election scene

And they're off: Municipal candidates get an early start on the 2019 election scene


Gary politicians moved to the front of the line Wednesday as the candidate filing period opened on a snow-flecked morning.

Gary City Councilman-at large Mike Brown, D-Gary; Councilwoman Lavetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th; and Cliff Caldwell, a candidate for the city's 5th District council seat, were in place outside the Lake County elections board to be among the first to place their names on the May 7 ballot.

Brown's public career has had more twists than a pretzel factory. He has previously served as a county recorder and county clerk. Last year he was an unsuccessful candidate for county sheriff.

Only a month ago, he resigned as county clerk and was elected to the Gary Common Council by a caucus of Gary Democratic precinct committee members to replace former Gary city Councilwoman Regan Hatcher, who was elected last year to the General Assembly.

Now Brown hopes voters will elect him to a full four-year term as an at-large Gary city councilman.

In neighboring Porter County, the first day of filing faced some glitches.

Holly Taylor, a Republican running for the Valparaiso clerk-treasurer's seat that is being vacated by present clerk Sharon Swihart, was the first and possibly the only person in line at the Porter County Voter's Registration office inside the county administration center.

Taylor, currently a deputy clerk in the Valparaiso city office, said she had called and confirmed the voter's registration office would be taking filings, but things had changed a bit.

While Taylor was allowed to file her candidacy, Sundae Schoon, the Republican director of the office, said they were advised Tuesday by the Porter County Clerk's office all filings would be done in the clerk's office. Schoon said Republicans put the information on their website and blasted it on social media to remind potential candidates.

At the clerk's office a few blocks away, Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey said she had made the voter registration office aware in December of the change in filing locations and had sent out reminders on Monday and Tuesday. She said her office couldn't update their website because they'd been locked out until Tuesday and are in the process of updating information.

Bailey advised Porter County candidates to file in her office as they move towards Feb. 8, but filings will be taken at the voter registration office as a courtesy.

Taylor, who has served as a deputy clerk for six years, said she wanted to be first in line Wednesday to "get this done" and return to the city's business.

Nina Rivas, a Democrat running for clerk-treasurer in Portage, was one of the first to file in the clerk's office. Currently the chief of staff for the Portage Township Trustee, Rivas said she too wanted to file before heading to her office. She's running for the seat held by Chris Stidham, who filed his candidacy for Portage mayor Wednesday morning.

"I just wanted to show voters that I'm committed to running and excited to be on the campaign," Rivas said, adding she's worked in local government for the last eight years.

Sparks-Wade, who is in her fourth year on the Gary Common Council, is challenging Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who intends to run for re-election this year. Wade ran unsuccessfully last year for Calumet Township trustee. Caldwell ran unsuccessfully last year for Calumet Township board.

A little further back in the line, Lake Station City Judge Josh Matejczyk was present to run for his second term in office. Jason Pedrosa, is a candidate for Lake Station city council. He ran unsuccessfully for city council in 2015.

Former Hobart Mayor Linda Buzinec came minutes later to place her name on the ballot to reclaim her old job. She will challenge Hobart Mayor Brian Snedecor, who has served as Hobart mayor since defeating Buzinec in 2007.

Former state Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh filed Wednesday morning for Crown Point clerk-treasurer. She will challenge incumbent Clerk Treasurer Kristi Dressel.

Municipal candidates take center stage this year with no federal, state, county or township elections competing for the voters' attention.

Candidates for 37 cities and towns in Lake, Porter and LaPorte County can begin filing for a spot on the May 7 ballot where some 255 municipal offices are up for grabs.

That includes 139 slots for mayors, clerks and clerk-treasurers, city and town judges and council members, 61 in Porter County and 55 in LaPorte County.


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Porter County Reporter

Joyce has been a reporter for nearly 40 years, including 23 years with The Times. She's a native of Merrillville, but has lived in Portage for 39 years. She covers municipal and school government in Porter County.

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