McDermott, Van Til still pointing fingers
By Rich Bird Post-Tribune correspondent July 17, 2012 1:58PM
Updated: August 19, 2012 6:22AM
CROWN POINT — In addition to trading barbs with his opponent over who should have dropped out of the race, Lake County Surveyor George Van Til remains at odds with Democratic Party boss Tom McDermott Jr.
While responding to a statement issued Monday by Republican Eric Krieg, Van Til accused the county chairman and Hammond mayor of playing politics through the media in an attempt to extend his influence into the halls of county government.
Meanwhile, McDermott is calling Van Til an outright liar who has put himself above the party.
Monday marked the statutory deadline for candidates to remove their name from the Nov. 6 ballot. As the noon deadline, passed, Krieg issued a statement noting that Van Til remains in the race, despite having been asked publicly by McDermott to bow out.
McDermott broadcast his wishes last month on local radio in the wake of a state and federal raid on Van Til’s office, during which investigators seized computers and documents. No charges have been filed against Van Til, and there is no indication whether there will be any indictments.
“With the passing of this deadline, the race for surveyor is set,” Krieg said. “I will face Van Til the fall. I ask for the votes of everyone, especially honest and informed Democrats, who are sick and tired of politicians like George Van Til dragging the good name of Lake County through the mud with regularity.”
On Tuesday, Van Til issued a written response.
“I’m sorry Mr. Krieg isn’t withdrawing from the race, as some had hoped, since, should he be lucky enough to win, he has indicated that he has no intention of being a full-time official, like the citizens have had in this office for the last two decades,” Van Til wrote. “Nor does he have any background in storm water drainage, mapping or public service. That’s unfortunate for the people I serve.”
Van Til said “absolutely no one” has suggested that to him personally that he drop out of the race. In the same release, he accused McDermott of attempting to “extend his sphere of influence” into several county offices, “which he knows little about.”
“So I can’t worry about his political machinations and ambitions,” Van Til said. “I have a job to do and then a campaign.”
“That’s a lie, a flat-out lie,” McDermott said Tuesday by phone. “A number of people have contacted George about dropping out. I talked to him by phone. George is full of it, 100 percent full of hot air.”
Van Til contends McDermott suffers a “convenient memory,” saying he has not had a single conversation with the chairman since the May primary.
“I have not spoken to him since the primary. He left me a message once, a voicemail. We’ve had some texts, but I have never spoke to him personally. I have made many attempts to have a meeting with him and all end up failed.
“A political leader communicating through the media with people in his party is truly bizarre and totally non-productive, and is totally against what party leaders have asked him to do.”
Van Til said a number of party leaders have asked McDermott not to attack Van Til publicly, however, he declined to name any of those officials for fear of retribution against them.
“I’m not going to put anybody in that position of becoming a target of Tom McDermott,” Van Til said. “He’s a lawyer. He can’t be a prosecutor, a judge and a jury. Nobody has said anything about what I have allegedly done.”
The chairman stands by his assertion that the cloud of a federal probe hanging over Van Til will politically damage other candidates on the ticket.
“He is placing himself over the party,” McDermott said. “A lot of people if they were in his position would have done the right thing. His situation is tenuous at best. I insist that his situation is going to hurt the ticket and he should have stepped down for the good of the party.
“I can assure you if I was on the ballot, and the FBI came in and raided my office, my first priority would be to clear my name. George Van Til’s most important thing is to get re-elected. There’re bigger things in life than winning the Lake County surveyor’s office.”
In his statement, Krieg noted that passage of the deadline means that McDermott and the party are now prohibited from putting up a new candidate for the office, should Van Til now decide to step aside or be indicted for federal crimes.
“We’re reading it the same way Mr. Krieg is reading it,” McDermott said. “We’re stuck with (Van Til). Literally, we’re stuck.”