Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Blue county, red state, divided nation: Porter County Democrats sweep countywide races

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Lead No. 1: For the first time in memory, Democrats won every countywide race in Porter County.

Lead No. 2: The local electorate is splintering increasingly—and divisively—along party lines.

Begin with the Democrat sweep in Porter County. No Republican in a contested countywide race won on Tuesday and only one Republican in a race in which Dunelanders voted prevailed: incumbent State Rep. Ed Soliday fought off the challenge of Democrat Greg Simms.

Porter County voters decisively went for Democrat candidates, in some cases going against the statewide grain:

•In the presidential race, Obama took 50.77 percent of the vote here (52.73 percent in 2008) to Romney’s 46.99 percent. But statewide Romney won 52 percent of the vote.

•In the senatorial race, Democrat Joe Donnelly took 58.29 percent here to Republican Richard Mourdock’s 38.12 percent. Statewide Donnelly took 50 percent of the vote, with Libertarian Andrew Horning another 6 percent.

•In the gubernatorial race, Democrat John Gregg took 55.84 percent here to Republican Mike Pence’s 41.04 percent. But statewide Pence took 50 percent of the vote, with Libertarian Rupert Boneham another 4 percent.

•In the race for state attorney general, Democrat Kay Fleming took 50.97 percent here to Republican Greg Zoeller’s 49.03 percent. But statewide Zoeller took 58 percent of the vote.

•In the race for superintendent of public instruction, Democrat Glenda Ritz took 58.83 percent here to Republican Tony Bennett’s 41.17 percent. Statewide Ritz took 53 percent of the vote.

In the County

In the countywide races the Democrat sweep was total:

•Democrat Laura Blaney romped her way to the South District seat on the Porter County Commissioners (58.94 percent of the vote).

•Democrats Sylvia Graham and Dan L. Whitten were re-elected to their seats on the Porter County Council and Democrat Bob Poparad won an at-large seat.

•Democrat incumbent Kevin Breitzke won his fifth term as Porter County Surveyor (55.49 percent of the vote).

•And Democrat incumbent Bill Alexa won his third term on the bench in Porter Superior Court II (60.52 percent of the vote).

Partisan Rift

Yet the very thoroughness of the Democrat victory on Tuesday threatens to conceal another trend: a deepening partisan fracture in Porter County and in Duneland as well.

Nearly half of all Porter County voters on Tuesday cast straight-party ballots: 42.66 percent of them in fact (18.27 percent Republican, 24.39 percent Democrat). In 2008, only 37.22 percent cast straight party-ballots (16.12 percent Republican, 21.10 percent Democrat).

In Duneland’s precincts, on the other hand, the number of voters who cast straight-party ballots this year is almost double that of the number who did so in 2008. On Tuesday, fully 42.15 percent of Dunelanders cast straight-party ballots (18.16 percent Republican, 23.99 percent Democrat). In 2008, only 24.17 percent did so 10.26 percent Republican, 13.91 percent Democrat).

And had Republican Richard Mourdock not proved in Duneland such a deeply unpopular candidate for U.S. Senate, there may well have been less ticket-splitting and more straight-party voting. Because—despite the spike in the number of Republicans who voted straight-ticket on Tuesday—only one of Duneland’s 30 precincts went for all three Republicans in the presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial races.

And only that single precinct—Westchester 14—went for Mourdock.

Even in the 11 other Duneland precincts which went for Romney, Mourdock lost.

So there was a fair bit of ticket-splitting in the top three races: in the 12 precincts which went for Romney, voters in eight of them preferred the Democrat John Gregg for governor, not the Republican Mike Pence.

Still, 17 of Duneland’s 30 precincts rode the wave and went Democrat in those top races: Obama, Donnelly, and Gregg.

Turnout

For all the talk about heavy turnout—about how it approached turnout in 2008—actually a smaller percentage of Porter County registered voters showed up at the polls on Tuesday than in the three previous presidential elections.

Turnout countywide was 63.97 percent, compared to 66.12 percent in 2008; 73.98 percent in 2004; and 70.21 percent in 2000.

Turnout in Duneland’s 30 precincts averaged 64.06 percent on Tuesday, compared to 67.87 percent in 2008.

The precinct with the best turnout on Tuesday was Westchester 18, where 77.59 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Westchester 18 also had the heaviest turnout in 2008, when fully 80.77 percent went to the polls.

The precinct with the lowest turnout on Tuesday was Liberty 2, where 47.80 percent cast ballots. The now subsumed Westchester 2 had the lowest turnout in 2008, with 44.34 percent.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted 11/7/2011