Democrats in Burns
Harbor Sunday selected five names for their slate of candidates in this
year’s race for Town Council: Craig Barnes, Eric Hull, Raymond Poparad,
Marcus Rogala, Sr., and Nathan Tumblin.
Not on the slate
are two incumbents -- Gene Weibl and current Council president Jim McGee.
Two other challengers, James Constantine and Brad Enslen, were also
On a dog day
afternoon, 105 voters packed the garage at the Burns Harbor Fire Station for
the Democrat Town Convention. The task at hand was to select five out of
nine nominees for the November municipal election ballot for the Town
Council at-large seats and also to decide a candidate in a contested race
In the first round
of voting, Rogala took the most votes with 72, followed by Poparad with 67
votes, Hull with 62 votes and Barnes with 60 votes, each securing a spot on
incumbent Jane Jordan easily defeated her opponent, winning 75 votes to
Marianne Juscik-Minier’s 28 votes.
But in the first
round, no other candidate captured a majority to earn a place as the party’s
fifth candidate for Council. The closest was Tumblin with 49 votes, followed
by Weibl with 42 votes, McGee with 37, Enslen with 33 and Constantine with
convention rules set by the Indiana Democrat Party, a second ballot was
held. This time, voters could only vote for one candidate. Eliminating
Constantine since he had the least votes the first round, the outcome for
the second vote was Tumblin - 48, Weibl - 35, McGee - 11, and Enslen - 9.
With no candidate
winning a majority, a third ballot was needed, this time with Enslen knocked
out. Tumblin earned the majority with 52 votes. Weibl took 41 votes and
McGee took 7.
Before the vote,
each candidate was allowed five minutes to speak. All spoke except for
Constantine who was a no-show.
The future of Burns
Harbor seemed to be a key issue for the candidates with references to growth
and the revitalization plan currently being undertaken by the Town’s
Redevelopment Commission with master developer advisor and consultant
The RDC offered the
contract to LWLP earlier this year for $350,000 paid from revenues captured
in the town’s tax increment finance areas. An outline of the plan was given
last month discussing the concept of bringing year-round events and new
industries to the town.
After hearing of
his defeat, Weibl, an RDC member who has advocated the strategies proposed
by LWLP, told the Chesterton Tribune he “understands people being
afraid of change” but believes they would have shared in the vision had they
“really been able to see what was trying to be accomplished.”
“And truly, it’s
our fault that we did not communicate that,” Weibl said.
Weibl in his
address to the audience touted the fact that the RDC has received a $1.65
million NIRPC grant and has granted TIF funds to the Duneland School
told convention members of his 14 years as a Council member and his
continued support for each department. He said he was unsure of what the
future holds for Burns Harbor but he would continue seek input from other
town officials in big decisions.
comments to the Tribune afterward, said it was apparent to him that
voters “wanted a change.”
“I think they were
happy about the outcome (of the vote). It’s what they wanted,” he said.
McGee added he was proud to see “everyone being very professional” and
treating each other respectfully throughout the convention.
Of those on the
ballot, four have a connection to public service in Burns Harbor. Rogala is
currently the Town Park Board President, Barnes had been the town marshal
for a brief span in 2012, Poparad is a former Council member and fire chief
and Hull has served on the Plan Commission and recently replaced Greg Miller
on the Town Council.
Tumblin works as an
operating engineer in the private sector.
convention for a third time was Amy Zehner. Nick Loving served as recording
secretary and Gordon McCormick as sergeant-at-arms.
Signing voters in
were Democrat Party Chair Jeff Chidester and Porter County Voters
Registration Democrat Director Kathy Kozuszek.
from 2 to 3 p.m. The first order of business was Zehner’s challenge of
fourteen participants’ eligibility to vote. By a show of hands, each of the
fourteen were declared by the audience as eligible to vote.
Kozuszek told the
Tribune there are 291 registered Democrats in Burns Harbor,
indicating a strong turnout with 105 participants. But there are also 509
non-partisan voters and 161 Republican voters registered in the town who
could have participated in the convention if allowed by the participants.
The convention went
longer than in 2007 and 2011 since the Council has moved to all at-large
seats, finishing at about 5:30 p.m.
There was audible
vexation each time a new ballot had to be conducted as no one could leave
the convention until all the candidates were decided. As participants lodged
complaints, Kozuszek said state lawmakers recently have given small towns
with populations under 3,500 the ability to choose to participate in a
primary elections, so conventions can be forgone in future election years.
The five successful
candidates for Town Council will face four on the Republican side in
November -- Toni Biancardi, Andy Bozak, Phyllis Constantine and Jeff Freeze.