Chesterton Tribune



Indiana Dunes State Park privatization backer to lead Indiana Republican Party

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By Tribune Staff and

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS - The former director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources who has spearheaded a campaign to privatize and expand the Indiana Dunes State park beach venues has been picked by Incoming Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb to run the state Republican Party.

Indianapolis-area attorney Kyle Hupfer is expected to be formally made chairman at a meeting of the state GOP in February.

Hupfer, who is the party’s regional chairman for the 5th Congressional district, must be voted in by state committeemen but is not expected to face opposition. The district he currently oversees extends north and east from Indianapolis.

“I know Kyle Hupfer is prepared to manage the robust statewide grassroots, finance and communications organization that is the Indiana Republican Party well into the future,” Holcomb said in a news release Monday, noting that Hupfer is a longtime friend who served as his campaign treasurer and is one of the officials in charge of his gubernatorial transition efforts.

Hupfer previously led Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. He was also chairman of the Indiana State Fair Commission.

While serving as DNR chief under Daniels, he led an unsuccessful push to build out and privatize venues at the Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan.

Environmentalists and many local residents opposed the proposal at the time, which included plans for a hotel.

The idea was later revived by the GOP’s regional director for the 1st Congressional district, Valparaiso developer Chuck Williams, who hired Hupfer to negotiate a long-term lease at the park with officials at the agency he once led.

In a process that the Izaak Walton League and the grass roots Dunes Action have criticized as secretive and uncompetitive, the contract for construction of a banquet center at the mouth of Dunes Creek was given to Williams, a long-time donor to Republican political candidates in state and local races.

The deal - which is slated to bring restaurants and bars to the park - was approved despite considerable opposition to the sale of alcohol adjacent to the swimming beach and privatization of Indiana state parks.

Williams is also a member of the state committee that will vote on Hupfer’s nomination as chairman.

Outgoing party chairman Jeff Cardwell was appointed in 2015 by Gov. Mike Pence after serving as director of faith-based initiatives for Pence. Earlier this year Cardwell raised eyebrows after the Indianapolis Star reported he used GOP email lists to promote an Indianapolis hardware store he owns.

Cardwell told party officials that he plans to resign as chairman in early 2017.



Posted 12/13/2016




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