In the wake of Republican Rep. Mark Souder's resignation last month over an affair with a part-time staffer, 15 candidates scrambled over the weekend to win the GOP nomination to contend for Indiana's 3rd Congressional District seat. More than 400 Republican committee members quickly decided the nominee in two waves of voting on Saturday, with state Sen. Marlin Stutzman winning by a wide margin.
Stutzman gained statewide recognition for his formidable challenge to former Sen. Dan Coats in last month's Republican primary battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Evan Bayh. In that race he earned the backing of national figures like Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., only to lose in the end.
"I'm tired of running against Republicans," joked Stutzman after winning the nomination Saturday, according to The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. He will likely face Democrat Tom Hayhurst in November.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, could have called for a special election for the congressional seat 60 days after Souder resigned, but because he faced no deadline for the election, he pushed it back to Election Day. This means the candidates will be on the ballot twice in November, once for a special election to fill the rest of Souder's term as well as for the upcoming term. Hayhurst has argued that the special election should be held sooner so the district isn't left without a representative until the fall.
With his fiscally and socially conservative voting record, Stutzman is expected to win handily in the conservative district. Four years ago, Hayhurst ran against Souder, losing 54 percent to 46 percent. Democrats, however, may highlight Souder's downfall in campaign ads and tie his moral failings to Stutzman, a former part-time staffer of Souder's. Souder denies that Stutzman knew anything about the affair until soon after the Republican primary, when it became public knowledge.
In a recent email to WORLD, Souder described Stutzman: "Simply put, he is likely to have a slightly more conservative voting record than mine and shares my Christian worldview (without the sin)," he wrote. "Like [Rep. Mike] Pence and I say: Christian first, conservative second, Republican third." Stutzman, a fourth-generation farmer, is a member of a Baptist church along with his wife, Christy, and two young sons.
Souder served as a congressman for 15 years and announced his resignation May 18. He had recently won a tough Republican primary when the affair came to light. The district in northeast Indiana is rural but also includes Fort Wayne, the second largest city in Indiana.
"I hope God will somehow use this mess to His glory. I need some additional life changes and, assuming that I am humble enough to let the Holy Spirit use me, I will be back in other-if less prominent-ways," Souder wrote me in a recent email. He said he plans to eventually write and teach. (See "Lessons of a broken man," June 19, 2010.)