DEMS TAP BUN­CICH TO LEAD PARTY

With a first bal­lot ma­jor­ity, sher­iff re­places Ham­mond mayor as county party chair­man

Post-Tribune - - Front Page - BY CAR­RIE NAPOLEON Post-Tri­bune cor­re­spon­dent

CROWN POINT — Lake County Sher­iff John Bun­cich came out on top Satur­day in the race to suc­ceed Ham­mond Mayor Tom McDer­mott Jr. as Lake County Demo­cratic Party chair­man.

The packed Syd Garner Au­di­to­rium erupted in cheers when Bun­cich was an­nounced as the clear ma­jor­ity win­ner af­ter only one vote. Bun­cich re­ceived 289 votes from the 469 precinct com­mit­teemen and vice com­mit­teemen. He needed 235 votes to win.

Clerk Mike Brown and Com­mis­sioner Mike Re­pay, who also sought the post, came in sec­ond and third re­spec­tively.

“Let’s move for­ward and set out to win the races we need to win,” Bun­cich said over the roar of the crowd.

In an equally de­ci­sive vote, Michelle Fa­j­man, di­rec­tor of the board of elec­tions, was tapped to re­place Bun­cich as the party’s sec­re­tary with 251 votes, de­feat­ing Mike Trox­ell and Camille Clay­ton for the seat.

McDer­mott, 45, mayor of Lake County’s largest city, an­nounced on May 16 he was step­ping down as county chair­man. McDer­mott suc­ceeded then-Gary Mayor Rudy Clay as party chair­man in 2009 and was re-elected last year.

McDer­mott cited the stress of the po­lit­i­cal job and his de­sire to fo­cus on the city of Ham­mond. On Satur­day he thanked the rank and file, party lead­ers and their work­ers for their sup­port over the past five years.

“To ev­ery­body in this room, you are the back­bone of this party,” McDer­mott said. “We’re a great party. We’re a strong party. The state re­lies on us and we per­form.”

Party fundrais­ing is one of the main mis­sions of the party chair­man. When McDer­mott took over the helm from Clay, the party’s ac­counts were $30,000 in the hole. Since that time he has raised more than $1 mil­lion for the party.

Prior to the vote, Bun­cich told the gath­er­ing he was the man to con­tinue that fundrais­ing mo­men­tum.

Lake County has the sec­ond largest Demo­cratic voter turnout in the state and the state party counts on the county for re­sults, he said, adding a num­ber of key elec­tions are com­ing up this fall and next year, but it is also im­por­tant to fo­cus on 2016.

“We’ve got to turn the state blue again. With the help of Lake County we can do it,” Bun­cich said.

While Repub­li­cans are in con­trol in In­di­anapo­lis, Bun­cich said, Lake County can still win sup­port from leg­is­la­tors on im­por­tant lo­cal is­sues.

“We need the re­spect back we de­serve from In­di­anapo­lis,” he said.

| JIM KARCZEWSKI/FOR SUN-TIMES ME­DIA

Sher­iff John Bun­cich is sworn in Satur­day by Judge Ge­orge Paras as the new Lake County Demo­cratic Party chair­man in Crown Point.

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