There's no better election night than one when you're an unopposed incumbent, right?
Don't tell that to Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas.
The Republican who will get a fourth term leading the city, was nonetheless disappointed by the results of Tuesday's municipal elections. What had once been an all-Republican City Council will be split between four Republicans and three Democrats.
"The low voter turnout was a huge impact for us," Costas told Times reporter Rob Earnshaw. Indeed, turnout in Porter County barely topped 20 percent. With no mayor's race on the line, Costas' supporters may very well have stayed home, opening the door to the new Democratic faces. In this case, Costas would have been better off to have a Democratic challenger to stoke turnout on his side.
The turnout in Porter County was heavy compared to Lake County's 15 percent and LaPorte County's 13 percent. It's the kind of turnout that usually spells good things for incumbents and Northwest Indiana's mayors enjoyed a stellar evening. Leaders in East Chicago, Gary, Hammond, Hobart, LaPorte and Michigan City all easily won re-election. East Chicago's Anthony Copeland and Hammond's Tom McDermott Jr. both had more than 90 percent of the vote. Crown Point's David Uran was unopposed. The one tight mayoral race was in Portage, where Republican Mayor James Snyder edged Democrat Brendan Clancy by just 225 votes. It was a hard-fought victory for Snyder in a city that leans Democratic.
Uncompetitive or unopposed races aren't just a drag on voter turnout. In East Chicago, 3rd District Councilman Robert "Coop" Battle won his unopposed race from his cell in the Lake County Jail, accused of killing a man. John Cantrell, the attorney for Battle (who is also facing federal drug charges), said he was disappointed by calls for Battle to resign his council seat. Obviously, in Northwest Indiana, you're presumed re-elected until proven guilty.
Finally, under the category of "every vote counts," just 37 Kouts voters were enough to give Democrat Nicole Markovich a one-vote victory over Republican Kevin Salyer for the at-large Town Council seat. Do you think there's a friend or family member of Salyer feeling guilty for staying home?
Hopefully, for the vast majority of Region voters who stayed home, this guilts you enough to get you to show up for the 2016 primaries in May.