Updated: May 29, 2014 6:02AM
VALPARAISO — Porter County’s former two-term sheriff and a retired security employee from Bethlehem Steel will square off in the May 6 Democratic primary for the Porter County’s sheriff nomination.
Sheriff David Lain, completing his second term, cannot run for re-election under state statute. The winner of the primary will face Republican Michael Brickner, Valparaiso’s police chief, in the November general election.
David Reynolds, 63, of Portage, served as sheriff from 1999 to 2006, during which time he oversaw the design and construction of the Porter County Jail, which relocated from downtown Valparaiso to Ind. 49 almost 12 years ago.
Harold Lush, 69, of Chesterton, was employed in plant security at the former Bethlehem Steel from 1973 to 1988.
Both say illegal drugs are the biggest issue facing the next sheriff.
Drugs drive almost every crime in the county, Reynolds said, and the majority of the inmates in the jail are there directly or indirectly because of substance abuse.
“That, to me, is a litmus test,” he said, adding the growing number of heroin overdoses in the county mean the community needs to come together and adjust its thinking about the county’s drug problem.
People bringing in heroin from outside the county need to be arrested and convicted, he said, with additional support from the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Merrillville and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force, which the county belongs to.
“We need to utilize that expertise. I know they’re willing to work with us, and we need to work with them,” he said. “If people realized how serious the drug problem is in this county, they would be shocked and amazed.”
Lush, responding via email, said illegal drugs and driving under the influence are both a problem in the county. As far as drugs, Lush said he would implement police intelligence, cooperation with the DEA and local task forces to reduce drug use.
“Every overdose death is preventable, provided we are vigilant,” he said, adding school programs and public education “are the beginning points of attacking the problem.”
Other concerns for Lush include domestic violence, which he called “an epidemic affecting every community,” and the consequences of which “can cross generations and last a lifetime,” and inattentive driving, particularly cell phone use and texting.
For Reynolds, the sprouting of subdivisions in rural townships is going to necessitate a look at how to patrol those streets.
“Everyone needs to look at that growth and keep abreast of infrastructure, and that includes public safety,” he said.