Voters Tuesday could bring about the greatest change in several decades to the membership of the Lake County Council.

Five council members face opposition in the May 8 primary and a sixth isn't running for re-election. Never more than two members have been elected to the council in the last 15 years.

The possibility of upheaval boils highest in three districts: the 2nd, where Councilwoman Elsie Franklin, D-Gary, faces three vigorous Democratic opponents; the 3rd, where five Democrats seek to fill the seat of Councilman Jamal Washington, D-Merrillville, who is departing after one term in office; and the 7th, where Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, is confronted by a well-financed St. John Republican.

Some 15 Democrats and four Republicans are before the voters to join the council, a seven-member fiscal body that sets budgets and generally acts as the board of directors for county government.

Elsie Franklin has held the 2nd District seat since her first election in 2002. Ill health forced her to miss most council meetings between April 2014 and July 2015 when she returned to her public duties. She has been a Gary precinct committeewoman, served as 3rd District precinct captain and the party's city chairwoman for more than a decade.

Her challengers, Jeremy M. Yancey, Clorius L. Lay and Dorothy "Dot" Spires, promise vitality in representing residents of central and western Gary, the town of Griffith and unincorporated Calumet Township.

Yancey was born in Hammond, raised in Gary and currently lives in Gary. He graduated from Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts in 2008. He attended Purdue University Calumet and Indiana University Northwest from 2008 to 2013. He operates an Allstate Auto and Home Insurance agency in Merrillville.

Yancey said, "One of the core principles of my campaign is active participation."

Spires, a Gary community organizer and mother, attended Gary's Horace Mann High School and Columbia College Chicago. She is a member of New Revelation Missionary Baptist Church and vice precinct Democratic committeewoman.

"I will be a servant for the people. I will always be available to start — like yesterday — because they need representation that is there, willing and able," she said.

Attorney Clorius L. Lay has been practicing law since 1975. He also has served as an assistant county attorney, a Gary city attorney and has been a member of the Calumet Township board since his election in 2010.

Lay said he will employ his legal skills to help the council. He said he also will make himself available to help constituents navigate their county government concerns.

Who will fill Jamal Washington's shoes?

Five Democrats are competing to replace Councilman Jamal Washington, D-Merrillville, whose tenure on the council has been marked by his arrest and conviction for battering his wife and his latest arrest in December on charges alleging domestic violence against a female cousin.

Leonard White, Ronier L. Scott, Jackie (Jacquese) White, Charlie Brown and Melissa A. Borom stressed they are running to restore the integrity of the office and representation to district residents in Gary's eastern and southern sections and the city of Lake Station and several precincts in the town of Merrillville.

Leonard White was born and raised in Gary and currently lives in Merrillville. He is a member of Gary's Israel the Church of Jesus congregation. He has worked as a manager for the Gary Sanitary District, served on the Merrillville Storm Water Management board and worked between 1999 and 2015 at the Lake County Solid Waste Management District as a grant administrator and specialist.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Merrillville 7th Ward in 2015. He sued the county waste district last year, claiming his job termination was the result of racial discrimination. The district denied the allegations. The parties resolved the suit out of court last fall. White received a cash award of $32,500, according to Clifford Duggan Jr., the district's attorney.

Scott was born and raised and still lives in Gary. He graduated from Wirt High School, received a bachelor's degree at Calumet College in organizational management and human services. He has served as a Gary precinct committeeman for 15 years.

He won election as a member of the Gary City Council where he served from 2004 to 2014. He also served on Gary's economic development board.

He lost re-election following his guilty plea four years ago to a misdemeanor count of failing to file federal income tax returns. He served a three-month sentence. He currently works at a family business.

Jackie White was born and raised and still lives in Gary. She graduated from Andrean High School, Purdue University engineering program and is an Oxford University business fellow. She currently works for Northern Indiana Public Service Co.

State Rep. Brown grew up in Philadelphia and moved to Gary after graduating from Cheyney University in Pennsylvania. He was an educator in the Gary Community School Corp. from 1961 to 1968, worked for the city of Gary from 1968 to 1988 and was CEO of Edgewater Behavioral Health Services from 1988 to 1993.

He held his 3rd District Indiana House seat from 1982 until this year. He helped pass a statewide indoor smoking ban, extend health coverage to low-income Hoosiers and helped establish the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, which has funneled money into Gary-Chicago International Airport improvements and expansion, Lake Michigan shoreline improvements and commuter rail access to Chicago.

Borom, of Merrillville, attended Merrillville High School, Indiana State University and Valparaiso University's Law School. She is a manager of state and local affairs for Midwest-based Global Aviation.

Republicans battle in the 7th District

Two Republicans are contesting the 7th District to represent the city of Crown Point, the towns of Winfield, Cedar Lake, Lowell and Schneider and rural south county.

Strong has served on this seat since his selection in 2012 by a Republican precinct committee caucus. He was born in Winfield, graduated from Crown Point High School, served in the United States Marine Corps and had a 30-year career as a Crown Point police officer. He served as Center Township trustee for a decade and was a member of the Center Township Board from 1999 to 2002.

He is being challenged by St. John Republican Christian Jorgensen, who is president of the St. John Town Council. Jorgensen has been an attorney since 2003.

Jorgensen said he was prompted to run over Strong's controversial decision a year ago to support Jamal Washington over fellow GOP Councilman Daniel Dernulc for vice chairman of the council.

Jorgensen said, "There is no way on God's green Earth I would have elevated (Washington) to that position. That vote was rewarding criminal behavior. That was polarizing for me."

Strong said in return for giving Washington the ceremonial role of county vice chairman, he got Washington's support for road improvement money for the sprawling 7th District's highways.

Jorgensen has raised $27,000 this year to unseat incumbent Councilman Eldon Strong. Strong has received $12,844, according to Lake County election board campaign finance reports.

Council incumbents face challengers

Lake County Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, is running for re-election to his second full term representing the 1st District, which includes the cities of Hammond and Whiting and several precincts in the town of Munster. 

Hamm was first elected to the County Council seat by Democratic caucus in 2012 to fill a vacancy left by fellow Democrat Mike Repay, who became a county commissioner. Hamm is a former Hammond police officer, city councilman and fire chief.

His challenger, Darrell McCoy, of Hammond, couldn't be reached for comment.

Lake County Councilman Dan Dernulc is running for re-election to the 4th District to represent the town of Dyer and parts of the towns of Highland, Munster, St. John and Schererville.

Daniel Dernulc has served on this County Council seat since his election in 2010. He is a former Highland town councilman who also served on that town's Redevelopment Commission, Plan Commission and Water Board. He also is a former chairman of the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission. He currently works for telecommunications giant AT&T.

Joseph W. Clark, a Dyer Republican, said he is no longer conducting an active campaign since suffering an occupational injury after he filed for office. He said voters should support Dernulc, who would face Democrat Barry Halgrimson in this fall's general election.

Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid is seeking re-election to the 5th District, representing the city of East Chicago, the town of Highland and several Hammond precincts. She was raised in Lake County and is a member and lector at St. Stanislaus Church.

She has held this council seat since August 2004 as well as several Democratic party offices and worked more than two decades as an employee of the Lake County clerk's and treasurer's office.

She is being challenged by Deonte Nance, an East Chicago Democrat. He couldn't be reached for comment.

Lake County Councilman Ted F. Bilski, is unopposed in the May 8 Democratic primary in his bid for re-election in the 6th District, representing the city of Hobart, most of the city of Lake Station, the town of New Chicago and several Merrillville precincts.


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.