After a six-month vacancy, northeast Indiana has a U.S. congressional representative again.
Marlin Stutzman, a farmer and Republican state legislator from LaGrange County, swept past Democrat Tom Hayhurst by an almost 30-point margin in Tuesday's election. He'll complete the rest of former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder's term and begin a full term of his own in January.
When Stutzman greeted hundreds of supporters Tuesday night at Ceruti's, 6601 Innovation Blvd., he told them his election was part of a national drive to change Washington and shorten the reach of the federal government.
“We will not take it from Washington anymore, and this adversity is causing us to wake up and take back our country,” he said.
“This is not the end. It's the end of a campaign, and it's the beginning of a lot of work,” Stutzman said.
Stutzman won by a huge margin throughout the 3rd District. That he so overpowered Hayhurst surprised many observers, who believed that Hayhurst, a retired physician from Fort Wayne, would combine his name recognition from a 2006 campaign for the office with a strong performance in Allen County to produce a respectable showing.
It didn't happen. Stutzman far outdistanced the performance of former Souder, who ran against Hayhurst in 2006. Souder won that race with about 54 percent of the vote, and about 51 percent in Allen County.
This year, Stutzman took Allen County with 58 percent of the vote, and a far larger margin outside Allen County, for a districtwide margin of about 30 percent. Libertarian Scott Wise took only 4 percent of the vote in Allen County.
The secret to Stutzman's success is anything but secret: It's President Obama.
“The reason so many Republicans are winning tonight is not about them; it's about Obama,” said John Crawford, who was a member of Fort Wayne City Council for three terms, beginning in 1996. Voters don't like the health care changes included in legislation pushed by Obama and passed by Democrats in Congress, he said. Mostly, Crawford said, Hayhurst's overwhelming defeat was a matter of timing. If Hayhurst had run in 2008, aided by the surge for Obama and “all those young voters – voters who never voted before and may never vote again,” he would have won, Crawford said.
State Rep. Dennis Kruse, who ran unopposed, generated applause when he told the hundreds of Republicans, “We want to do away with Obama-ism and go back to freedom and liberty.”
Hayhurst took the defeat with more equanimity than many of his discouraged supporters at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 166, 2930 W. Ludwig Road. He wasn't ready to blame the Republican wave on Obama alone.
“Part of it is about Obama, but part of it is about our eroding economy,” Hayhurst said. “So many of our working people are looking to whoever's not in power for answers. … Forget a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. (Workers) can't even find a fair day's work.
“I think that same frustration is what swept Obama in, and Democrats in, in '06 and '08,” Hayhurst said.
“I truly think we can turn it around,” he said. “If Republicans can do it, more power to them.”