Chesterton Tribune

County Council races: Graham, Whitten, Poparad to face Hoffman, Neff, Wszolek

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

It was a great election night if you were an incumbent in the Porter County at-large primary races. Or if you were on the council once before.

Current County Council member Sylvia Graham and Council President Dan Whitten secured their spots in the November election along with former council member Bob Poparad. Challenger Ned Kovachevich will not be running as his vote fell short in the pick three race.

Graham took the top spot in the Democrat race with 31.52 percent countywide (4,947 votes). Whitten took second with 29.32 percent (4,601 votes). Trailing in third was Poparad with 24.56 percent (3,854 votes) and raking in just 14.61 percent (2,293 votes) was Kovachevich.

Poparad however won over Whitten in Westchester Twp. where he is from and nearly tied him in Pine Twp., just one vote short, 88-89.

Poparad, who suffered a defeat in the 2010 after two terms as the council’s 1st District representative, thanked the voters for their support and said he will need to put in extra effort if he is to rejoin the council.

“It’s going to be an interesting and hard-fought battle in the fall,” Poparad told the Tribune this morning.

Graham garnered the highest number of votes in the four Duneland townships – Westchester, Jackson, Liberty and Pine – and also complemented those who supported her. She said she looks forward to being a part of some important decisions the council will make in the very near future.

“What really matters is getting the work done,” she said. “We need to buckle down on the issues.”

Whitten echoed the importance of the matters at hand such as implementing funding mechanisms for a new animal shelter, E-911 and county health insurance costs.

“The horses are on the track,” said Whitten about the upcoming November election where three Republicans will also be vying for the three at-large seats on the seven-member council. “We hope to be ready for the fall and are getting started discussing the issues.”

Republican voters pick

Hoffman, Neff and Wszolek

Meanwhile, Republican voters weeded out their bunch of six candidates making the run for council at-large, electing the three who will appear on the November ballots.

Valparaiso High School Athletic Director Mark A. Hoffman won the highest vote total with 6,756 countywide, or 20.92 percent. The next best was Mechanical Concepts owner Ralph Neff who received 6,176 votes (19.13 percent), followed by county Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals President Joe Wszolek with 5,715 votes (17.70 percent). All three have made it to the second round of voting in November.

The race’s three unsuccessful candidates were Porter Twp. Trustee Edward K. Morales who had 5,077 votes (15.72), Ethan Lowe with 4,438 votes (13.75 percent), and Ralph Iler who had the lowest total with 4,126 (12.78 percent).

The results held steady in Duneland with Hoffman taking the largest number of votes in the four townships. Neff and Wszolek held second and third consistently except fin Liberty and Jackson townships. Lowe came in third in Liberty with 370 votes over Neff’s fourth place with 338 votes. Morales took third in Jackson Twp. with 286 votes over Neff’s fourth place total of 278 votes.

Having never held public office before, Hoffman has subsequently earned the new moniker “Mark the Politician” from colleagues at his school. He told the Tribune this morning he is both very excited and humble to have such strong approval from county voters.

“This county is spectacular and I’m just excited that enough people believed in what I would like to do which is leading us into team concept. Rock n roll, let’s go! I’m really pumped about this,” Hoffman said.

As other candidates ran their campaigns focused solely on the issues, Hoffman believes what made him stand out was his 40 year history as a teacher and a coach. He wishes to utilize his team-building skills for the good of the county.

“I think I can lead the prospects of unification between the municipalities and the rural areas and call for more collaboration with the commissioners and the council,” he said.

After hearing of their victories, Neff and Wszolek commented on the amount of work it takes to run for a political office.

“A lot goes into running a campaign. I look forward to the challenges in November,” said Wszolek whose biggest support came from Portage where he hails from. He said Portage has traditionally voted Democrat but “a whole different type of dynamic” has emerged with growing Republican numbers, which he said was evident in last year’s election of Republican Mayor James Snyder.

“Portage is no slouch for a Republican base,” Wszolek said.

Meanwhile, Neff thanked those who worked diligently on his campaign.

“We had a good time. There were a lot of volunteers. All I had to do was show up and be happy,” Neff said.

Posted 5/9/2012