Chesterton Tribune



County Democrat candidates out raise Republicans thru October 14

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It’s said that 2016 will be an unusual election year and that may be proven with the pre-election campaign finance reports filed in Porter County.

In previous election years Republicans have brought in the most money, but this time Democrats have garnered the lion’s share of contributions in nearly every county race.

The County Commissioner North District race, pitting Republican Jim Biggs against Democrat Jeff Chidester, has raised the most money. Chidester reported a total of $59,988 in contributions and expenditures from Jan. 1 to Oct. 14, when the pre-election campaign finance period ended. Biggs meanwhile reported $22,095 in contributions and receipts for his campaign.

Chidester, who is the longtime financial secretary of Ironworkers Local 395 and chair of the Porter County Democrats, received donations from a number of unions and fellow Democrats. His biggest contribution comes from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers with $1,400. Giving $1,000 each were United Steelworkers Local 6787; Merrillville attorney A. Leon Sarkisian; Portage Township resident Irene Chidester; Democrat Voters Registration Director Kathy Kozuszek; Portage law firm Rhame & Elwood; and Democrat State Senator Karen Taillan’s campaign committee.

Chidester’s top labor backers include Laborers Local 81 of Valparaiso ($800); United Steelworkers Local Union 12775 of Portage ($450); and the Northern Indiana Area Labor Federation of Merrillville ($300).

Chidester’s individual donors include Daniel O’Meara of Valparaiso ($500); Becky Chidester of Valparaiso ($500); Steve Langer of Valparaiso ($500); Steve Mullins of Valparaiso ($500); Portage Town Council member Mark Oprisko ($500); Dr. Kelly Stankiewicz of Chicago ($500); and Daniel Parker of Indianapolis ($500).

Other campaigns giving to Chidester include Citizens for Chuck (Moseley) at $700 and Hoosiers for Scott Pelath, and Visclosky for Congress at $500 each.

Chidester reported a $10,000 loan from himself to his campaign.

Biggs, a current Porter County Council member, received his largest donation from In Touch Pharmaceuticals of Valparaiso, at $3,000. His biggest citizen donors are Valparaiso business owners Mark Forszt and John Magurean and Duneland School Board Member Ronald Stone, all giving $1,000. Also giving $1,000 to Biggs is Gariup Construction Company of Gary; and A C Iron, of Lansing, Ill.

Individuals giving Biggs $500 include Valparaiso residents Dr. Lonnie Ailes and Jason and Lori Gilliana and Indianapolis resident Gregory L. Henneke.

Businesses giving $500 were NITCO of South Bend; and G. E. Marshall Inc. of Valparaiso. The DPBG Political Action Committee also gave $500 to Bigg’s campaign.

In addition, Biggs reported a $300 contribution from Porter County Republican Chair Michael Simpson and a $250 contribution from the Friends of Ed Soliday.

In the South County Commissioner’s uncontested race, Democrat incumbent Laura Shurr Blaney reported a $13,000 campaign loan she made to her committee this year.

County Council Incumbents

Democrats proved again to be the heavy hitters in the County Council at-large races with the three incumbents--Sylvia Graham, Robert Poparad and Dan Whitten--reporting much larger war chests than their Republican opponents, Travis Gearhart, Jeff Larson, and Rich Parks.

Poparad reported the largest: $30,000 in campaign contributions and receipts, his own loan to the campaign, most of which has been spent on advertisements. He reported no other donors.

Whitten’s total came to $27,825 in contributions and receipts. His biggest support came from fellow incumbents Graham and Poparad, whose campaign committees gave $2,000 each. Many of Whitten’s other donations came from attorneys and law firms. Whitten works as a bankruptcy attorney for Whitten and Whitten.

Whitten’s biggest individual donor is Merrillville attorney Kevin Schmidt, who gave $1,500. Sarkisian Sarkisian & Associates, a law firm in Merrillville, gave $1,200 ;and Portage law firm Rhame & Elwood gave $1,000.

Individual donors giving $500 to Whitten were Steven Disney of Valparaiso; R. Todd and Janet Gore of Portage; and Mark and Cheryl Oprisko of Portage.

Whitten also took in $500 each from Ironworkers 395 and Boilermakers Local 374, as well as $500 from Komyatte & Casbon, a medical collection law firm of Highland ($500).

Graham meanwhile reported a total of $17,566 in contributions and receipts. She received her largest donations from Ironworkers Local 395, of Portage ($1,500); and the Northern Indiana Operators of Countryside, Ill. ($1,000).

Graham’s top individual donors are Betty Izynski of Valparaiso ($600); Nancy Morris of Valparaiso ($400); Frances Saar of Valparaiso ($300); Mary Rearick of Chesterton ($200); Bess Megremis of Bloomington ($200); and Steve Langer of Valparaiso ($200).

In addition, Graham’s campaign garnered $450 from Rhame & Elwood of Portage; $400 from Harper and Harper Law Office of South Haven; and $350 from the Committee to Elect David Reynolds Sheriff ($350).

And Graham reported a $2,500 loan she made to her committee.

Republican County Council

Parks leads the GOP contestants with $20,745 in contributions and receipts. Individuals giving $500 or more to Parks are Timothy Scannel of Valparaiso ($1,500); County Commissioner Jeff Good ($1,000); Arnold Gough of Valparaiso ($1,000); Deno Yiankes of Valparaiso ($500); Brian Rossman of Valparaiso ($500); Mark D. Magura of Valparaiso ($500); Kevin Carlson of Valparaiso ($500); and Kathleen Walsh of Valparaiso ($500).

Businesses giving the most are Gilliana Pools LLC of Merrillville ($1,000) and VRQ LLC of Highland ($500). Other help comes from the campaigns of Portage Mayor James Snyder ($500); Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas ($300); and the Friends of Ed Soliday ($250).

Parks reported putting $4,595 from his own pocket into his campaign.

Gearhart listed a total of $2,120 in contributions and receipts for the year and only $717 for the period between April 9 and Oct. 14. The only contributions he lists $50 from Hobart resident Mike Stulac and $220 from the Porter County Young Republicans group.

Jeff Larson’s campaign reported just $1,249. He reported making an $800 contribution of his own, making him his own biggest supporter, as well as a $1,663 loan. Other contributors listed are Mike and Bridget Jessen of Valparaiso ($100); Valparaiso Police Chief Mike Brickner ($75); and John Jandura of Chesterton ($50).


Other races this year include the County Treasurer and County Surveyor.

The Treasurer’s race put up some impressive figures with Democrat incumbent Michelle Clancy reporting $23,663 in contributions and receipts, with most raised from residents and businesses of Portage.

Clancy’s largest contributor is PRP Leasing of Portage, with $2,500; followed by Samuelson Insurance Agency of Portage, with $2,000. Her biggest individual supporter is Bonnie Aguda of Chicago, with $1,500.

The Citizens for Chuck (Moseley) Committee also gave $1,500 to Clancy.

Donors giving $1,000 are The Ross Group, Inc. of Portage; Allen’s Snow Removal & Lawn Care of Portage; and Boilermakers Local 374 PAC Fund of Hammond.

In addition, Clancy has received much help from unions and political action committees. Giving $500 are ILA Local 1969 of Portage; Northern Indiana Operators of Countryside, Ill.; IBEW PAC Voluntary Fund of Washington D.C.; ILA 2038 PAC of Portage; Ironworkers 395 IPAL of Portage; and J & S Construction of Portage.

Clancy’s Republican opponent and County Coroner Chuck Harris took $16,627 in contributions and receipts, his campaign report said.

Harris’ biggest donor is Stephen Harris of Frankfort, Ind. with $2,600. He received $1,000 each from Harbor Buick GMC of Portage; Citizens for (Portage Mayor James) Snyder; Realty Executives Premier of Valparaiso. Harris himself pitched in $1,000 to his campaign.

Giving $500 to Harris is Peoples Home Equity Inc., Knoxville, Tenn.; Shoreline Appraisal of Portage; Innovative Property Tax Solutions of Merrillville; Circle R Electric of Portage; Sound Construction LLC of Valparaiso; Comtineo LLC of Valparaiso; and Equi-Val Tax Solutions of Elkhart.


Democratic incumbent Surveyor Kevin Breitzke reported $650 for his campaign amount, with a $550 loan from himself.

Republican challenger Bill Rensberger has not listed his amounts.

Reports Online

Copies of all campaign finance reports are available for the public to review online at the County’s website,, under the Elections tab.




Posted 11/1/2016




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