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Northwest Indiana's early voters have made up their minds
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Northwest Indiana's early voters have made up their minds

Federal, state and local government candidates have chosen an unpredictable political season to face the voters.

Lake, LaPorte and Porter County election officials say voter interest has been running higher than normal for a mid-term election.

All three counties report they already have surpassed or nearly surpassed their absentee ballot totals for all of the 2014 general election with more than a week left in the early voting period. Lake County has received more than 13,000 ballots in the mail or in person; LaPorte more than 2,700; and Porter more than 5,000.

What the numbers cannot yet tell is which party these excited voters are supporting.

"We'll know after Election Day," said Heather Stevens, co-director of LaPorte's voter registration office.

Lake County Republican and Democratic leaders have suggested the election could be a referendum on President Donald Trump's administration, which was most recently thrust before voters with his controversial, but successful nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats hope to increase their voice in the U.S. Congress, if not take control of it, while Republicans are confident the country remains in the same frame of mind when they elected Trump in 2016.

All this matters to U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, who could use a Democratic wave to overcome a Republican challenge from Mike Braun.

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, whose 1st District includes Lake, Porter and parts of LaPorte County, is facing off with his perennial Republican opponent, Mark Leyva. For voters living farther east in LaPorte County, Republican U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski is being challenged by Democrat Mel Hall.

In statewide races: Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson is challenged by Valparaiso Democrat Jim Harper, and Indiana State Treasurer Kelly Mitchell by East Chicago Democrat John C. Aguilera.

In state legislative races, Democrats hope to break the Republican's super majority hold on the General Assembly.

That matters to: state Sens. Frank Mrvan Jr., Karen Tallian and Rick Niemeyer. They are challenged respectively by Hammond Republican Charles Kallas, Republican Cole Stultz and DeMotte Democrat Ryan Farrar. Democrat Patricia A. "Pat" Boy and Republican Dan Granquist are competing for the open 9th District state representative seat.

In the Indiana House of Representatives, the matches are: state Reps. Ed Soliday, Michael Aylesworth, Hal Slager, Douglas Gutwein, Julie Olthoff and Jim Pressel opposed by Democrats Frank Szczepanski, Delano Scaife, Chris Chyung, Christina L. Zacny, Lisa Beck and Karen Salzer. Democrat Carolyn B. Jackson and Libertarian Party candidate Donna Dunn are contesting the open 1st District seat.

Lake has four contested county government races: Sheriff Oscar Martinez against Republican Dan Bursac of Merrillville; 1st District Commissioner Kyle Allen against Republican Douglas M. "Doug" Wright; 4th District Councilman Dan Dernulc and Democrat Barry Halgrimson; and in the 7th Council District Republican Christian Jorgensen and Democrat Phillip Kuiper.

LaPorte County has five contests: Democrat John Lake and Republican Christina M. Espar for prosecutor; 1st District Commissioner Connie Gramarossa and Democratic challenger Sheila Brillson; 2nd District Councilman Randy Novak and Republican challenger Jim Rice; 3rd District Councilman Mark S. Yagelski and Republican Christopher Jackson; and Democrat Steve Holifield and Republican Michael Rosenbaum for the open 4th District council seat.

Porter County has 10 contests: Prosecutor Brian T. Gensel and Democratic challenger Gary S. Germann; Porter Superior Judge Jeffrey W. Clymer and Democratic challenger Clay M. Patton; Republican John C. Miller and Democrat Jessica A. Bailey for county clerk; Republican Karen Martin and Democrat Vicki Urbanik for auditor; Republican Chuck Harris and Democrat Lily M. Schaefer for recorder.

Also: Republican Cyndi Dykes and Democrat Randy Wilkening are running for coroner; 2nd District Commissioner Jeff Good is being challenged by Democrat Donna Perdue; 1st District Councilman Andy Bozak and Democrat Bob Poparad; Republican Mark "Coach" Hoffman and Democrat Greg Simms for the 3rd District Council seat; and 4th District Councilman Mike Jessen and Democrat Susie Talevski.

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