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A Democrat apparently regained control of the Lake County office responsible for property assessments Tuesday, four years after a landmark GOP victory for the same office.

Jerome Prince appeared to defeat incumbent Republican Assessor Jolie Covaciu. Prince would leave his Lake County Council seat to assume the new office in January.

"It's looking very promising, and I'm cautiously optimistic," Prince said late Tuesday. "If the numbers that keep coming in are any indicator, I think you can pretty much say we've done our job well."

Tuesday's election results marked a one-and-done term for the GOP in the assessor's office.

Covaciu, a Cedar Lake Republican, was named to the office last fall after the death of GOP Assessor Hank Adams. In 2010, Adams became the first Republican to win a countywide seat in decades.

Covaciu all but conceded the race Tuesday night.

"It looks like Mr. Prince has won," Covaciu said about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday. "I will be turning over to him an office that is in good shape. I'm tired and emotional. I'm sure Hank would be proud of what I've done in the last year. Lake County has not seen the last of me."

Prince has said he wants to acquire technology for more efficient data use in the assessor's office. The technology would use less personnel and analyze assessment information more quickly, he said.

He said Tuesday that his first goal in January would be "getting a grip" on the current reassessment of Lake County property values and ensuring all calculations are done accurately up front.

Prince noted past trends in which county assessments have been mired in gridlock and appeals because of inaccuracies.

Prince also has said he is at odds with Gov. Mike Pence's proposal to reduce or eliminate property taxes now assessed on business machinery and equipment, saying it would devastate local government finances again.

"Then the only other place to look to replace local government revenue is to the income tax again," Prince said.

While on the Lake County Council, Prince voted in favor of the controversial 1.5 percent local option income tax now assessed on  Lake County residents and workers.

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Editor

Marc Chase is a veteran investigative reporter, columnist and editor of more than two decades. He currently leads The Times news staff as local news editor. He can be reached at 219-933-3327.