Five men vying for Stutzman’s U.S. House seat

Marlin Stutzman (WISH Photo)
Marlin Stutzman (WISH Photo)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE)- No, you probably won’t actually see campaign signs for them this spring. Five candidates, however, are running for Congressman Marlin Stutzman’s Third District U.S. House seat in the May primary.

Mark Baringer and Jim Mahoney hope to knock out Stutzman in the Republican primary. Jim Redmond, Justin Kuhnle, and Tommy Schrader are all competing in the Democratic primary for the right to potentially take on Stutzman in the fall.

“I think he’s a little too much of an ideologue,” said Baringer of Stutzman.

“There’s a certain point where you just become disconnected from the people you serve,” said Kuhnle, also speaking of the congressman. “I think he’s gotten to that point.”

Stutzman said the claim that he’s out of touch is just wrong. “I try to make as many visits as I can to businesses across northeast Indiana, where the real jobs are at, and where people are trying to make ends meet with their family budgets,” Stutzman told NewsChannel 15.

Stutzman isn’t the least bit nervous about losing his seat to Mahoney or Baringer in the spring, nor -assuming a primary win- to the winner of the Democratic primary in the fall.

“No, it doesn’t make me nervous. I encourage people to run for office,” said Stutzman.

The others running for the seat can’t come close to matching the hundreds of thousands of dollars the congressman has raised this election cycle, and they’re not even trying. So NewsChannel 15 asked them: Why even run in the first place?

“It gives people a choice,” said Mahoney. “Otherwise, they have no choice. They’re stuck with whoever’s left.”

“I’ve always been a fighter,” said Kuhnle. “I’ve always been an underdog where people don’t expect you to do much, and then you surprise them.”

“I think Social Security is an issue that crosses Democratic and Republican lines,” said Baringer. “It’s an open primary, so if I can convince Democrats and I can convince Republicans, I think I have a chance.”

“When Glenda Ritz ran against Tony Bennett [in the 2012 state superintendent of public instruction election], she raised a quarter of the money he did,” said Redmond. “And she beat him because she went out and talked to the people, and that’s what I’m doing.”

Each of the challengers honestly thinks he can win, and each has something different he’s pledging to fight for or do.

“I would target Medicare and Medicaid fraud,” said Redmond, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and has spent much of his career in management for Cooper Standard Automotive in Auburn. “According to the [government's accounting agency], $50 billion a year is being squandered from Medicare and Medicaid fraud.” Redmond has raised about $2000 for his campaign and also said he wants to restore civility to the federal government.

“[Job] one is I’m going to fight for [the preservation of] Social Security,” said Baringer, who served in the U.S. Navy and works as service manager for Cavanna Packaging USA.  “Number two is… to conserve the military.  When I hear people say ‘boots on the ground’ who have never worn a set of boots, have never taken up a weapon and stood point, that bothers me… They’re not boots on the ground. They’re sons and daughters. They’re mothers and fathers. And we have to treat them like our natural resource that they are.” Baringer is running his campaign virtually entirely via social media.

“[I would set] term limits [for myself to] three terms,” said Kuhnle, who has a business degree from Purdue and has spent most of the past decade as a social caseworker.  “I want to come back and serve in the community.” Kuhnle has raised roughly $2000 and also said he wants to reform the No Child Left Behind legislation and focus on strengthening the job market for the middle class.

“The income tax brackets end at $400,000. There’s no reason not to add a bracket for above that,” said Mahoney, speaking of his proposal to help bring the federal budget into balance. Mahoney, a former parks director and former assistant manager at a drugstore, said he has been disabled because of a spine injury since 1990. Social Security and disability payments are his only sources of income. “I will work to make sure that people who need services get them. I don’t think, as a party, the Republicans should be wanting to throw people off of food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid,” said Mahoney, who has not been actively raising funds.

There is a common thread among the challengers, though. They all cite Stutzman’s vote last fall to potentially send the government into default as the tipping point that pushed them into the race.

“I have problems with the Affordable Care Act, but I don’t think the way to do it is to bring the country to the brink of default,” said Baringer.

“You can’t just take it on a whim and say ‘I’m going to shut it down’, and then be excited about it and say ‘We’ve gotta get something out of this, but I don’t know what it is,'” said Kuhnle.

Stutzman’s response? Basically a shrug of the shoulders.

“When we’re trying to make spending changes, there’s going to be votes that people will spin a certain way or another,” said Stutzman. “But I don’t think it’s any secret that, you know, Marlin Stutzman is going to continue to try to fight to get our budget back into balance.”

Tommy Schrader could not be reached for comment for this story despite numerous attempts by NewsChannel 15.

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