Incumbent Porter County councilman denied GOP nomination
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent May 6, 2014 9:46PM
People gather in the Porter County Administration Building to watch early election results from Tuesday's primary. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 8, 2014 6:08AM
VALPARAISO — Republicans in three Porter County Council races jostled in Tuesday’s primary for a spot on the November ballot, with incumbent Jim Polarek, the District 4 councilman, losing to Michael Jessen in a three-way race.
The tightest race by far was in District 1, where incumbent Jim Biggs garnered just 11 more votes than political newcomer Kyle Yelton, according to unofficial vote totals. Biggs had 1,074 votes to 1,063 votes for Yelton, with all 123 precincts reporting.
In District 3, incumbent Karen Conover withstood a challenge from Russell “Chet” Barone — receiving 1,152 votes to 993 for Barone.
Jessen received 1,059 votes, Polarek 905 and Anthony Pampalone 364, according to the unofficial totals.
The Democrats did not have contested races Tuesday in any of the four council districts, not fielding candidates in districts 1 and 3. Democrats can slate candidates for the Nov. 4 election in early July.
Jessen will be opposed by Democrat Don Ensign in District 4 in November. In District 2, Democrat Jeremy Rivas does not yet have an opponent, but Republicans could slate a candidate.
Budget woes and how to best handle investing $159 million in proceeds from the 2007 sale of the county hospital topped the list of concerns for the council candidates. Any decision on investing the hospital proceeds requires a majority vote by the council and the Board of Commissioners.
Biggs, 56, of Chesterton, is seeking his second term on the council. He touted his work to control spending and the need for the county to have a strategic plan, which could help guide the county in its financial decisions. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Yelton, 26, also from Chesterton, ran as a candidate who could engage younger voters and build consensus among elected officials moving forward.
“I’m so proud of our team,” he said. “We had a great game plan going into it.”
Conover, 57, of Valparaiso, credited the support of her backers for her securing the nomination. She is seeking her second full term on the council, and also served two terms in an at-large seat.
“I’m going to work just as hard as I did for this primary,” she said of the general election.
Jessen, 50, of Union Township, is a vice president for Aldi. He said his next move would be preparing to face his Democratic opponent in the fall.
“This is the first primary I’ve every been involved in, so that was a new experience,” he said, adding the general election will require “reaching out to as many people as I can.”