Chesterton Tribune



Chesterton races: Ton survives challenge, Cobb, Lafata win

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Jim Ton easily fended off the challenge of his former Chesterton Town Council colleague, Jeff Trout, in the Battle of the Incumbents in Tuesday’s municipal primary election.

Ton won the Republican nomination for the 1st District seat on the council--his seat since 2004--by a wide margin, 323 votes or 58 percent to Trout’s 237 votes or 42 percent.

Ton and Trout had previously served two full terms together on the council, since Trout was elected to the 2nd District seat in 2007. But in December 2014 Trout and his wife moved into a new home in the 1st District and under state law was obligated to resign his 2nd District seat.

--Corrected 5/7/2015--

On Tuesday, however, Ton proved his grip on the 1st District to be exceedingly firm. His grip, that is, on four precincts in particular: Westchester 1, 3, 4, and 12--the town’s older neighborhoods west of Ind. 49, east of 23rd Street, south of Broadway, and north of 1100N.

Ton outpolled Jeff Trout by a total of 181 votes to 75--better than a two-to-one margin--in Westchester 1, 3, 4, and 12. Those four precincts--Ton’s reservoir of support--include Chesterton’s oldest neighborhoods, those very roughly bounded by Broadway to the north, Ind. 49 to the east, 1100N to the south, and 23rd Street to the west.

Trout, on the other hand, was much more competitive in the other eight precincts, running neck-and-neck with Ton in several, winning others outright, and outpolling Ton in all them by a total of 162 votes to 142. In three of those eight, he outpolled Ton by not quite a three-to-two margin, 102 votes to 73: Liberty 1 and 5 (Westwood Manor and Abercrombie Woods); and Westchester 14 (Olde Towne, Duneland Cove, the Villages of Sand Creek, and the Estates of Sand Creek).


Ton and Trout both agree that voters had a clear choice to make in this race, that indeed the campaigns they ran reflected their respective interests and preoccupations while serving on the council.

“People in town value what we have and appreciate that there are those of us who want to keep what we have without selling out the farm,” Ton told the Chesterton Tribune this morning. “We can have economic development but also our quality of life, what people live here for. We can do both. It’s not an either-or situation.”

“We can’t stick our heads in the sand,” Ton added. “Times are changing. But I don’t think we need to give away the farm to get a cow.”

Ton did take a moment to thank the voters. “Your support means very much to me.”

Trout, for his part, struck rather the same note but in a different key. “My strengths have been in economic development,” he told the Tribune. “And to certain people that’s kind of a dirty word. Change and progress can be scary things to some people. Some people also probably still look at me as an outsider making changes and they don’t like it.”

Trout will continue to serve both on the Redevelopment Commission--on which Ton also sits--and on the Plan Commission. And from those seats, Trout said, he will still be able to help guide this town’s economic future.

Cobbs Beats Jakel

A somewhat sharper case of a Chesterton native prevailing against a newcomer is actually seen in the other Republican race on the slate: that between Nathan Cobbs and Kevin Jakel for the nomination to the 4th District seat.

Cobbs, born and raised in Chesterton, took 325 votes or 68 percent; Jakel, a recent transplant from the Southwest, managed only 152 votes or 32 percent.

Cobbs also ran on a platform of economic development, although one nuanced especially for long-time residents and premised on the idea that companies interested in locating here must reflect this community’s values.

Cobbs cited his name recognition today, when contacted by the Tribune, and noted that his father, Art, and his mother, Marlene, were both well known in the community, as was his grandfather, Joe Hannon. “There are pockets of people who know me but that didn’t mean they would vote for me,” he said. “I’m very grateful that they did.”

Cobbs did suggest that his community service--in Duneland Diamond, Chesterton/Porter Rotary, Rebuilding Together Duneland--went far to show folks that his heart is in Chesterton.

Jakel, Cobbs added, “ran a clean race. I think he’s a good man. And I hope he stays involved. He can help the town going forward.”

Lafata Beats McMahan

In the only contested race between Democrats, Dean Lafata outpolled Rory McMahan by the widest margin of any primary race in Duneland, 72 percent to 28 percent, for the nomination to the 3rd District seat. Lafata took 143 votes to McMahan’s 55.

One could say that this race similarly pitted a better known, longer established Chesterton resident against a lesser known, more recently transplanted one. Because, although McMahan is a CHS graduate, he lived the greater part of his life in Porter and indeed ran for the Porter Town Council in 2007, losing in the primary.

Lafata, on the other hand, is a small businessman in Chesterton, has served on the Tax Abatement Advisory Committee, and has made a name for himself as a Liberty Rec volunteer.

Lafata ran a campaign explicitly extolling the value of small business and his desire, should he be elected to the council, to find ways to promote and encourage it. Lafata also pledged his commitment to the town’s parks, which he says have been languishing.


The high-profile race between Ton and Trout appears to have generated more voter interest in this primary than in the last one, in 2011, with a turnout rate of 8.04 percent.

That compares to a rate of 3.31 percent in 2011; and to 10.64 percent in 2003. There were no contested primary races in Chesterton in 2007.

A total of 573 voters pulled Republican ballots; 209, Democrat ballots.


Posted 5/6/2015

Corrected 5/7/2015