Strong to replace GOP Niemeyer on Lake council
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent December 8, 2012 11:24AM
Updated: January 10, 2013 6:35AM
CROWN POINT — Center Township Trustee Eldon Strong handily beat two challengers for the 7th District Lake County Council seat in a caucus of Republican precinct committeement Saturday.
While there was some discrepancy in the vote totals, the final count was 35 for Strong; 24 for James Cuffia, chairman of the Crown Point Republican Party; and three votes for Richard Ludlow, a Schneider town councilman and former Indiana State Police officer.
Strong was endorsed by his predecessor, Rick Niemeyer of Lowell, who vacated his seat when he won election for state representative in the 11th district in the November general election.
“I’ve known Eldon for many years. He’s a good man. We’ve talked and are on the same page with the budget,” Niemeyer said after the winner was declared.
Strong said he would work with Dan Dernulc, R-4th, the only other Republican on the council, and with the five Democratic council members to do what’s best for the county.
Like the other two candidates, Strong said he won’t support the county option income tax. The state has frozen the county’s tax levy because it is the only county in the state that has not passed the tax.
“I think there’s more to be done by the county to cut costs first,” Strong said.
Ludlow called himself a fiscal conservative and said he would encourage the cities, towns and county to consolidate on supplies, services and equipment to cut costs.
Cuffia said the county option income tax hasn’t helped the remainder of the state. He also believes if passed, it would hurt the county’s chances of attracting new, labor-intensive businesses.
Before declaring Strong a winner, the Republican precinct committee members at the caucus had to decide whether there should be a second vote since there were 62 ballots cast and only 60 people signed in.
In a voice vote, it sounded like only one person wanted a revote. Attorney Jeffery Gunning said a revote wasn’t needed legally or according to party rules because the two ballots wouldn’t have made a difference.
Precinct committeeman Joe Hero said sign-ins ended at 10 a.m., but five committeemen had a difficult time finding a parking space by the new Crown Point Public Library in the city’s square, where the caucus was held.
He said he filed a petition to let them vote, but contended only two of the five were able to cast a ballot.
One of the people counting ballots denied this.
A precinct committeewoman who declined to give her name said she believes Cuffia lost some support when he stated in a letter that he received the endorsement of Indiana Gov.-elect Mike Pence. She said Pence later sent an e-mail saying he wasn’t supporting anyone for the council seat.