Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Souder Resignation Creating New Landscape in 3rd District

By Jon E. Easter

I've said before when we've seen this sort of thing. I don't revel in this sort of thing. Congressman, Congresswomen, Senators, State Legislators, Mayors, Trustees, Councillors, etc. are people, too. So, I have to shake my head at the entire situation with Congressman Mark Souder. His statement sounded heartfelt, and I wish him the best. With his religious beliefs, I think he thinks he will likely have to answer to a higher power on this one.

The advice to anyone in power, "Don't believe you can get away with anything with anyone at anytime, and, if you are hiding something, 'tis best you do the uncovering before you are uncovered. The sunshine will shine upon you. It doesn't matter what it is; someone is watching."

That said, the previously untouchable Souder did the right thing. He had no choice but to resign, and it sounds like as I read multiple news reports that the Republicans worked quickly to cut him loose from their caucus. John Boehner, according to several sources, was quick to tell Souder to quit. And, rather than try to survive a tough election against a tough Democrat, Souder did the right thing for his party and his district.

For the first time since 1995, a new person will represent the 3rd Congressional District, and this scandal opens up a bit of a wound for the Republicans in District 3, but this is, after all, a very Republican district. In 2008, amidst Republican losses everywhere, Souder was returned to Congress by a 55-39 percent margin over Democrat Mike Montagno. Democrat Tom Hayhurst, who gave Souder his toughest fight in 2006, won the Democratic nomination and will battle the Republican nominee, at least in November...if not before.

The future of the representation of the 3rd Congressional District now lies in the hands of Governor Mitch Daniels. At his discretion, Daniels can set a Special Election date to replace Souder. There is no date requirement for the Governor, but the Indianapolis Star reports that logistically 60 days would be necessary to run an election. That would be sometime in July.

A short campaign season would favor someone with high name recognition. Hayhurst doesn't have to enter the Special Election if he doesn't want to do so. Who knows if any Democrats will try to enter the race. Jill Long Thompson did once represent the area in Congress.

The Republican side is pretty wide open, but speculation is centering on Marlin Stutzman. Stutzman is still on the tip of the tongue of many Hoosiers after challenging Dan Coats and three other Republicans for the Senate nomination. Former Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke could be a nice seat filler. The GOP also needs to fill its ballot for November now. Should the GOP candidate prevail in a Special Election, which is likely, it makes things always interesting for the General.

The last Special Election in Indiana occurred in the 7th Congressional District. Congressman Andre Carson defeated Republican Jon Elrod in March of 2008 to fill the seat his late grandmother, Julia Carson, held until her death. Carson then prevailed in a brutal seven-way Primary defeating some great candidates in the process. Elrod did not run again in the May Primary instead choosing to go back and focus on his Indiana House seat. He lost that seat, too, to Mary Ann Sullivan in House District 97. Gabrielle Campo was the GOP candidate for Carson in November, and Carson collected 65 percent of the vote.

Souder's exit makes the opening for a Democrat to take the seat in the Special Election. These types of enterprises are extremely hard to predict. Should a Democrat run the right campaign, you can win a Special Election in this area as a D. Long Thompson did.

So, in the 3rd District, all eyes are on Mitch Daniels. He has the next move in determining a date for a Special Election.

This is unintentionally the start of my look at the upcoming Congressional races in all nine Indiana districts. The 9th District follows tomorrow morning.

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