Turnout strong in Gary, East Chicago for primary races

May 3, 2011

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Election officials in Lake County, Indiana, report voting is strong in Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, where mayoral and city council races are making things interesting.

“Voting is quite significant in East Chicago and in Gary because the cities tend to bring that out. They’ve got very hotly contested primaries with named candidates,” Jim Wieser, attorney for the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter’s Registration, said Tuesday. “But in the southern, suburban communities, it’s very light. There are very few contested races.”

Polls opened at 6 a.m. in most places, but a few opened late.

“We did have a couple of issues where polling places open late this morning. I know we had one in East Chicago where they couldn’t locate the inspector and they finally woke him up,” Wieser said. “He just overslept so they opened about 25 minutes late.”

That particular poll will close at the appointed 6 p.m., despite the fact that it opened late, Wieser said. 

Four years ago, more than 20,000 votes were cast in Gary’s last mayoral primary.

Rudy Clay won the race by a wide margin, taking in more than half the votes. Second place went to Karen Freeman-Wilson, who garnered about 5,500 votes.

Rudy Clay looked to have a good chance at winning reelection in Tuesday’s primary. But in early April, he announced he was dropping out of the race because he is battling prostate cancer. Clay’s dropping out leaves nine active candidates in the Democratic primary. Among the leading candidates are Karen Freeman-Wilson and Ragen Hatcher.

A lone Republican candidate is running unopposed in Gary. The general election will be in November.

In Hammond, incumbent Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. is trying to win the Democratic nomination. His strongest opponent is Oscar Sanchez, a retired steelworker who is getting backing from his one-time boss, former Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez. Sanchez served as an administrative assistant to Dominguez for four years.

In East Chicago, Democrat Anthony Copeland is trying to hold on to the mayor’s office. Last fall, the city’s Democratic caucus selected Copeland to finish out the remaining term left by George Pabey, who resigned following his conviction on a federal charge.
In winning the caucus, Copeland became the city’s first African-American mayor.

His closest challenger is City Councilman Rich Medina, who is trying to become the predominately Hispanic city’s first Mexican-American mayor.