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Chris Chyung

Chris Chyung

CROWN POINT — Political newcomer Chris Chyung rode a blue wave into the 15th House District Tuesday and captured it from incumbent Republican state Rep. Hal Slager.

Chyung, 25, of Dyer, posted "VICTORY! THANK YOU!" late Tuesday night on his Facebook page after having outpaced Slager by 86 votes. Chyung outpolled Slager 12,473 to 12,387, according to final, unofficial totals.

Slager said early Wednesday he is neither conceding nor sanguine about a successful recount as he and his advisers consider their options.

"It's a leap on a recount when there is that many (votes.) But there are a lot of issues they need to consider. It's a job I love doing. I'll miss it," Slager said.

Chyung attended a Democratic House caucus meeting in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

"It's an honor and such a privilege to serve the 65,000 constituents I have now. We hope we can make some good changes in educational funding," Chyung said. 

"We had luck on our side. We had a great team of young people and people I brought out of retirement and out of their jobs," Chyung said. "They sacrificed their free time for me and worked hard until the polls closed. We had a national tailwind too," he said of an energized Democratic base angered by President Donald Trump.

Jim Wieser, the Lake County Democratic chairman, said Tuesday night Chyung has gone from someone who never ran a political campaign before to one of the party's brightest prospects.

"Chris came to me well over a year ago. I didn't know him," Wieser said.

Chyung was a financial analyst for Pangea Real Estate in Chicago until 2017 and now owns his own real estate company, Koh Holdings, in Hammond.

"He said he really wanted to be involved in government and politics and was going to run for state representative. I explained the district to him. I said this is tough," Wieser said.

Slager, who served as a Schererville town councilman for a decade, first won election as state representative in 2012 after the Republican-dominated General Assembly recast the 15th House District into a more Republican-friendly district that encompassed Dyer, most of St. John and parts of Griffith.

Slager managed a slim 554 victory over Democrat Thomas O'Donnell that year, but went on to score solid wins against Wieser in 2014 and O'Donnell again in 2016.

Wieser said he has known Slager outside of politics too and recalls the hard work Slager put into his earlier campaigns.

"Hal didn't work this like he did the other ones," Wieser observed.

Chyung said his campaign was reaching out to voters across the district. He personally stood outside a Griffith fire station during that town's special election Sept. 25 to greet voters.

The campaign received more than $40,000 in large donations in the final two weeks from family and supporters, according to the Indiana Secretary of State's campaign finance website. He bought time on local cable television to bring home his progressive Democratic agenda.

"He made up his mind early and never stopped working at it. He put together a very solid group of supporters," Wieser said. "He forged an alliance for his campaign between our regular party organization and that element that is more progressive and brought us together.

"I didn't meet one person who didn't like Chris or didn't want to support him or work for him. He has a real grasp of people and how it all works. If you are going to run against a solid incumbent, like Hal Slager, you have got to pull out all the stops, and he did. There is no doubt in my mind he will become a leader in the party and this state."

Staff writers Dan Carden and Steve Garrison contributed to this story.

Election Day: Complete Region results

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Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.