Greater Lafayette Elections: Dems Make Gains, Hold 8-1 Council Majorities

Nov 5, 2019

West Lafayette City Councilors Norris Wang (left) and Steve Dietrich (right) watch as results come in. Wang retained his seat by a narrow margin, while Dietrich was one of several Republicans voted off the Council.
Credit Stan Jastrzebski / WBAA News

A year after securing additional power in the state legislature, Tippecanoe County Democrats held their seats on the Lafayette City Council and made significant gains in West Lafayette in Tuesday’s elections.

Big Advantages On Both Councils

Starting in January, both councils will have eight Democrats and just one Republican on them. County Democratic Party Chair Heather Maddox attributes the success to what she calls “old-fashioned” methods.

“When you go out, go door-to-door, knock doors, make phone calls, contact voters. That stuff, it still works," Maddox says "I mean social media, all that, it’s great, don’t get me wrong, but you still can’t – that one-one-one contact, that’s what our candidates did.”

Still, Maddox says it’s too soon to tell whether this year’s races are a precursor to national or state results in 2020.

In addition to the council wins, both Democratic city clerks were unopposed in their re-election bids, as were West Lafayette judge Lori Stein Sabol and Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, who’s getting ready to start a fifth term in office.

National Politics Affecting West Lafayette Races?

Steve Dietrich, a Republican ousted from his at-large seat on the West Lafayette Council after ten years, says he thinks the national conversation is at least reverberating locally.

“Well, I think the divisiveness we have in [Washington,] D.C. right now -- it’s a 50-50 split right now pretty much in all the polls you see," Dietrich says. "A lot of topic stuff floating around. That may have had impact locally.”

Republicans, who’ve held four of the nine seats on the West Lafayette Council, will only control one in the coming term – and the one GOP win was by just five votes.

Dietrich finished fourth in a race for the three at-large seats that represent the entire city, losing to incumbent Democrats Gerry Thomas and David Sanders, but also to James Blanco, a Democrat seeking public office for the first time.

"I have to say I’m a little surprised," Dietrich says. "Although the national climate is very consistent with what we’re seeing here. But I would have hoped that my ten years of service would have carried me through.”

Norris Wang, the only incumbent Republican to win his race, did so by collecting 115 votes to Democrat Austin Bohlin’s 110.

“Obviously if I am the only Republican, I can kinda get outvoted," Wang says." But I feel like I could work with them, I hope they could work with me and hopefully we can be fair and open.”

The 225 votes cast in Wang’s race was a larger number than in some other districts. Incumbent First District councilor Nick DeBoer won re-election by taking 54 of the 90 tallies in his race. Democrat Shannon Kang upset incumbent Republican Jon Jones in the Third District, representing much of the Purdue University campus, by getting 71 of the 111 votes cast in that race.

Independent Zachary Baiel (left) talks to West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis (right) after conceding the race Tuesday.
Credit Stan Jastrzebski / WBAA News

Dennis Wins Fourth Term In West Lafayette

One Republican who did hold onto his seat was West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis, who won a fourth term in office Tuesday, easily defeating independent challenger Zachary Baiel.

Dennis captured about three-fourths of the vote, and says he doesn’t think they new party makeup on the council will change the working dynamic.

“I mean, when you think about what we have done over the past 12 years, there’s been a lot of issues that have been relatively contentious, there’s been a lot of issues that have been no-brainers," Dennis says. "But to a soul, they all want to do what’s right for their city and for their district and for the people that they serve.”

Baiel says he wants his candidacy, which centered around a push for more government transparency, to move that public discussion more to the forefront.

“I’m hopeful – and that’s what I just asked Mayor Dennis to talk about – is ways we can improve the city’s open government stance. Because if there’s outcome of that, yeah, that’s what I would really like to see.”

Dennis is the third-longest-serving mayor in West Lafayette’s history, and is slated to trail only the late Sonya Margerum in terms of longevity by the middle of his next term.

LAFAYETTE RESULTS (* = incumbent)

Mayor

Tony M Roswarki (D)*
3598 votes

Clerk

Cindy Murray (D)*
2805 votes

City Council at large

Nancy Nargi (D)*
 2889 votes

Kevin M Klinker (D)*
2831 votes

Lon Heide (D)*
2766 votes

Todd Wilkins (R)
1974 votes

City Council District 1

Jerry Reynolds (R)*
372 votes

Kara Boyles (D)
288 votes

City Council District 2

Ron Campbell (D)*
330 votes

Mary Fisher (R)
253 votes

City Council District 3

Perry E. Brown (D)*
420 Votes

City Council District 4

Lauren Ahlersmeyer (D)*
626 votes

Oscar Alvarez (R)
383 votes

City Council District 5

Melissa Weast-Williamson (D)*
596 votes

City Council District 6

Bob Downing (D)*
518 votes

Perry Barbee (R)
288 votes

WEST LAFAYETTE RESULTS (* = incumbent)

Mayor

John R Dennis (R)*
2274 votes

Zachary Baiel ( I )
724 Votes

Clerk

Sana G Booker (D)*
2239 votes

West Lafayette Judge

Lori Stein Sabol (D)*
2354 votes

City Council At Large

Gerald W Thomas (D)*

2204 votes

David A. Sanders (D)*
1855 votes

James Blanco (D)
1844 votes

Steve Dietrich (R)*
1579 votes

City Council District 1

Nick DeBoer (D)*
54 votes

Sydney Rivera (R)
36 votes

City Council District 2

Peter Bunder (D)*
153 votes

Jonathan Livermore (R)
57 votes

City Council District 3

Shannon Kang (D)
71 votes

Jonathan A. Jones (R)*
40 votes

City Council District 4

Larry Leverenz (D)*
856 Votes

City Council District 5

Kathy Parker (D)
742 votes

John Meyers (R)
627 votes

City Council District 6

Norris Wang (R)*
115 votes

Austin S. Bohlin (D)
110 votes