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Sheriff Oscar Martinez

Donning his bulletproof vest, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez was getting ready earlier this year to patrol local interstate highways.

CROWN POINT — Voters appear to have given Democrat Oscar Martinez a new four-year lease on the Lake County Sheriff's Department Tuesday.

Early unofficial results showed Martinez with a likely insurmountable lead over Republican opponent, Dan Bursac Tuesday night.

Bursac, a recently retired Lake County police officer with 26 years on the force, made his latest in a series of attempts over the years to be the first Republican in memory to capture the job of top cop.

Martinez has served as sheriff since last fall when a caucus of Democratic precinct committeemen chose him to complete the 15 months left in the unfinished term of former Sheriff John Buncich.

Martinez first made a name for himself earlier in his career busting drug couriers on local stretches of interstate highways. He ran for sheriff in 2010 and again in 2014, losing both times to Buncich, who retaliated by banishing Martinez to patrol quiet country roads.

Martinez overcame that and a bout with cancer just as the county needed a new sheriff following a U.S. District Court jury's verdict last year that Buncich accepted kickbacks from towing firms. Buncich, who is appealing his conviction, was removed from office and is serving a 188-month prison term.

Martinez won the Democratic nomination in the spring primary. He argued he deserved a full four-year term on the strength of his early performance, bringing in a new professional jail warden, reducing unbudgeted overtime by corrections officers and raising morale within the department.

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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.