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Shock and awe

By PA

Fort Wayne Reader

2010-05-25


Congressman Mark Souder’s announcement that he would resign his seat in the US House of Representatives and his revelation that he was having an affair with a part-time staffer was… well, shocking.

There are many aspects of the story that are ripe for commentary and ridicule, but those jokes will get stale pretty quickly, so someone else can cover that aspect of it. Souder made no secret of his religious convictions, of course, and the Republican sweep of Congress that brought him to power in 1994 was big on family values, but he’s hardly the only “class of ‘94” conservative to lapse (Newt Gingrich, anyone?). Besides, Souder has also talked about his belief in redemption, so we’ll let him head on down that road.

And we’ll also count our blessings that this political affair didn’t include a sex tape. An abstinence tape, but no sex tape.

But one thing that baffled us — in the news coverage of Souder’s announcement on May 18, repeated references were made to Souder’s efforts to cover up or deflect rumors of the affair during his primary campaign.

PA’s reaction: what rumors? We didn’t hear a darn thing of this sort during the run-up to the primary, and neither did anyone we’ve talked to. Frankly, considering the negative tone coming from some of Souder’s opponents, we would have thought for sure that had the rumors indeed been flying, one of the candidates would have made sure the gossip had entered the public arena. (Then again, Bob Thomas isn’t from here, so how would he have heard those rumors? It’s doubtful they were discussing it in the locker room of the Meridian Hills Country Club).

We’re still curious — why now? Why run in a primary when this thing was bound to come to light sooner rather than later?

And who knew about the affair? How long had they known? Who pulled the trigger? Dropped a dime? Sang like a canary? Talked out of school? No one really seems to know, and thems that do ain’t talking (yet)…

So what happens next? Precinct committee people from both parties will caucus to choose a candidate to fill the vacated House seat for the remainder of the term. Then, there will be a special election, with a date yet-to-be-determined by Governor Daniels, to determine the winner. The candidate chosen in the caucus does not necessarily have to be the candidate who runs in November, but it probably will be.

No prizes as to who the Democrats will choose, but as to who that Republican candidate might be… well, in a week or so, it might be easier to list all the people who it won’t be. Bob Thomas and Phil Troyer, both of whom challenged Souder in the primary just a few weeks ago, have been brought up, and as of this writing neither has said no. State Representative Randy Borror has expressed interest, and even as FWR goes to press State Senator Marlin Stutzman — who ran for the GOP Senate nomination in the primaries — seems to be making his interest in the position official. And a lot of Republicans seem pretty excited about him.

That may just be the tip of the iceberg. “There will be many more,” says Fort Wayne City Council member Mitch Harper (R-4). “Expect to see as many as 15 people in the race. Once a certain level is hit, other folks jump in.”
The Democratic candidate front-runner Tom Hayhurst has “stayed classy,” as the kids say, and refrained from commenting on the situation, reiterating his focus on the issues.

But Hayhurst’s prospects may actually be a little dimmer. Any Democrat running in a conservative district like Indiana’s 3rd needs to tap into the right-leaning independents and the Republicans who were fed up with Souder. Not that those people would have “gone Democrat,” but they might have voted for Hayhurst, just this once, if they liked what he had to say, or even just liked him (and he is pretty well respected and liked).

But you can’t gain votes on anti-incumbent sentiment when the incumbent suddenly isn’t there anymore, and if the Republicans manage to get a superstar in the race, those “conservative but didn’t like Souder” folks might be more inclined to vote for that guy.

But it’s early days yet, and then again, we thought Mark Souder was going to be in Congress forever…

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