HAMMOND — New blood beat out old guard party loyalty Saturday when Lake County’s Democrats chose Bill Emerson Jr. to fill the position of surveyor.

Emerson soundly beat Gregory Sanchez 201-122 Saturday during what Party Chairman Thomas McDermott Jr. described as the most well-attended caucus in memory with 323 of 526 delegates on hand at the Hammond Civic Center.

“It’s a new day in that office and I hope a new day for our party,” Emerson said following his swearing-in ceremony. “I want to thank my supporters.”

He will fill the remaining three years of former Surveyor George Van Til’s term. Van Til resigned Dec. 5 after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges for using county employees and equipment to run his 2012 re-election campaign.

Sanchez served as Van Til’s deputy surveyor since July 2012. Sanchez tried to distance himself from Van Til during his speech to delegates, telling them he was not Van Til’s first choice to fill the post.

He said he found himself the underdog in the race against relative newcomer Emerson despite 30 years of experience and financial support of the party and its chosen candidates.

“I worked to clean up government, and the party bosses want to shut me out,” Sanchez said.

Emerson, who had the support of McDermott and a slim majority of party leaders, said his education as a civil engineer and experience as an attorney gave him the background to run the office efficiently and within the law.

“You have to decide if you want to look to the future or stay with the past,” he told delegates prior to the vote.

Emerson plans to digitize the department’s records and make bidding information available online among other changes, but he has no immediate plans for staffing. He will need to fill the position of chief deputy.

“I have to get in there and see what I have and see what I need,” he said.