Crusader Staff Report
East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland cruised to victory Tuesday, May 7 for a third term after a rematch against Democratic political rival John Aguilera.
Copeland grabbed nearly 69 percent of the vote in East Chicago’s primary elections, which included nine races for candidates running for the City Council, City Clerk and City Judge. Copeland, a former steelworker and firefighter, is East Chicago’s first Black mayor.
Copeland will face Republican Arthur Santos in the November 5 general election. Riding a wave of momentum, Copeland remains a heavy favorite to win a third term in the Democratic city.
Dwayne Rancifer Jr, Monica Guzman Gonzalez, Lenny Franciski, Terence (Terry) Hill, Stacy Dixon-Winfield, Robert Garcia and Golda Orange all won the Democratic nomination for seats on East Chicago’s seven-member City Council. Adrian Santos took 52 percent of the vote in his bid for City Clerk.
The biggest race of the evening was the rematch between Copeland and Aguilera. In 2010, the two faced off at a caucus of East Chicago Democratic precinct committee members, who had to replace former East Chicago Mayor George Pabey, ousted from office after being found guilty in a federal court of conspiracy and theft of government funds.
Aguilera served as a county councilman from 1994 to 2000. Afterwards, Aguilera served for six years as a state legislator representing East Chicago. Last year Aguilera ran for state treasurer, but lost after receiving more than 900,000 votes.
In his election night speech, Copeland said Aguilera’s big profile did not concern him in the Democratic primary for mayor.
“I’m not going to crow,” Copeland said at his victory party. “I’ll be right back to work tomorrow because I love my city.”
Aguilera was outmatched by Copeland in political donations. Copeland had more than a $250,000 in donations. Aguilera had $44,000, but most of it came from his own pockets.
Aguilera ran his campaign on a message that East Chicago was suffering from a morale crisis within its public safety department, but Copeland touted his record as mayor of East Chicago. Copeland said the city’s finances are sound after he balanced the city’s budget after the previous administration created $15 million, annual budget deficits that forced the city to rely on unpredictable casino gaming fees.
Copeland said before he took office nearly nine years ago, city employees suffered pay cuts and furlough days. Under Copeland’s administration, employees received annual bonuses between $500 and $1,800 in addition to a 2 percent pay raise this year.
Copeland also recalled $300 million in public and private investments in the city’s infrastructure since he took office. He said about two-thirds of city streets have been repaired and the city’s aging sewers have been restored.
“You guys believed this could be a better, safer place and you didn’t let Aguilera fill out my report card,” he said Tuesday night. “Everything is in place and we have only one direction to go and that’s up.”
There were other achievements that Copeland promoted to impress voters.
He said he helped broker the Cline Avenue bridge replacement, which is scheduled to be completed next year. He also made improvements to its Lake Michigan marina and invested in the city’s parks. Copeland said he increased private home ownership by giving residents $3 million in public assistance for down payments on new and existing homes.
Copeland also oversaw the relocation of hundreds of residents, who lived in the West Calumet area where the U.S. Environmental Protection agency found dangerously high levels of lead and arsenic contamination in the soil. Copeland forced EPA to clean it up.