The three men running to represent northeast Indiana's 3rd District in Congress agree on top issues in the race – creating jobs and reducing the federal deficit. But identifying the issues is where the agreement ends for Republican Marlin Stutzman, Democrat Tom Hayhurst and Libertarian Scott Wise.
Actually, they're running in two elections at once. On Nov. 2, voters will pick the U.S. representative who will take office in January. They'll also choose the replacement to finish the rest of former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder's current term. Souder resigned in May, shortly after the primary election, admitting he had an adulterous sexual relationship with a part-time member of his staff.
Hayhurst is a veteran campaigner for the job. In 2006, he ran against Souder and kept the incumbent to 54 percent. In Allen County, by far the population hub of the district, Hayhurst is widely known, both as a three-term Fort Wayne city councilman and as a physician, and generally liked.
But polling so far indicates Stutzman is a strong favorite to win in this strongly Republican district. Early this month, The New York Times predicted a 57 percent to 40 percent win by Stutzman. Polling and projections don't stop Hayhurst from campaigning vigorously. In fact, Hayhurst has been more visible than Stutzman throughout the campaign.
In almost every appearance, Hayhurst emphasizes jobs. He criticizes the bleeding of jobs from northeast Indiana to other countries and proposes “incentives and tax cuts for companies that create and keep jobs in the United States, not tax breaks to send jobs overseas.” Hayhurst also advocates a large-scale shift toward jobs in renewable energy in Indiana, from manufacturing wind turbines to processing soybeans and corn into biofuels.
Instead of targeting specific industrial sectors for job development, Stutzman said tax rates on businesses should be reduced to encourage private investment. The key is resolving that “we're not going to take more taxes, and we're going to control our spending to get the private economy moving again,” he said.
Wise, the Libertarian candidate, says restoring employment is so overridingly important “that we can't just allow the market to take care of it anymore.” The cost advantage provided by cheap labor and lax regulation in some other countries is so great that the U.S. should look at imposing tariffs on some imports, he said.
On the issue of reducing the deficit and ultimately the cumulative national debt, Stutzman said a key point is reducing the cost of Social Security benefits for future recipients (though not for current retirees, whose benefits should remain intact).
One approach might even include lump-sum distributions to people who would prefer to invest it themselves.
Stutzman also proposes the most dramatic change in taxation: replacing the income tax with a national sales tax.
Typically, advocates of a national sales tax say lower-income people would receive rebates for a portion of the sales taxes they would pay. Stutzman said such a change in taxation would eliminate loopholes and elaborate tax shelters.
Hayhurst advocates a balanced-budget amendment, though he said closing the deficit might need to take place over several years.
Wise agrees that “the most important thing is we have to get this budget under control.” He said simply reducing the rate of increase wouldn't suffice; instead, real cuts, probably painful cuts, are needed.