Indiana 3rd District
The flat northeast corner of Indiana was first settled by people of New England Yankee stock, establishing orderly communities with public schools and even colleges. They were joined by German immigrants, who built tidy farms and their own civic institutions. In the northern part of the state, there are hills and lakes, and the strange swamp that is the central focus of Gene Stratton Porter’s children’s classic, A Girl of the Limberlost. The one large city here, Fort Wayne, was built on the flat terrain along the Maumee River that flows to Toledo, Ohio. It grew as a factory town, surging ahead and then falling back as large factories, often tied to the auto industry, opened and closed over the years. As much as anything else, this part of Indiana is a place where people make things. Northwest of Fort Wayne on U.S. Route 33, Elkhart County is a manufacturing hub where local companies make everything from pharmaceuticals to musical instruments—oboes, bassoons, and piccolos. The county is best known as the nation’s manufacturing center for recreational vehicles, and doesn’t much care what the greenies think of that. “I represent the biggest gas-guzzling district in the U.S.,” its congressman, Republican Mark Souder, has said. But steep rises in gasoline prices, like those in recent years, can have a big impact in Elkhart, where several recent plant closings rippled through the economy to endanger suppliers and other dependent businesses. From August 2007 to August 2008, Elkhart had a larger increase in unemployment than any other metropolitan area in the nation, prompting The New York Times to call it “the white-hot center of the meltdown of the American economy.” The story noted that the city council passed a law limiting residents to one garage sale per month. The mayor responded that the Times article was one-sided and “painted it much worse than it really is.”
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Neighboring Kosciusko (Kosh-CHOO-shko) County is renowned for medical supplies. In Warsaw, the orthopedics manufacturing capital of the world, residents have been making orthopedic devices for more than a century. But reflecting national trends, manufacturing jobs in the Fort Wayne area dropped by 22 per cent from 1998 to 2005. In 2007, Claypool opened a $150 million biodiesel complex, including a soybean processing plant, capable of producing 88 million gallons of fuel annually. This is a surprisingly diverse area. Its eclectic population mix includes a concentration of Amish, plus Central Americans, Bosnians, Somalis, and the nation’s largest population of Burmese refugees.
The 3rd Congressional District of Indiana consists of most of eight counties in the northeast part of the state. This part of Indiana has been heavily Republican since the Civil War, though it has sometimes veered Democratic in times of economic distress. The seat recently has sent its representatives on to high positions: Dan Quayle, elected here in 1976, was later a senator and vice president, and Dan Coats, who succeeded Quayle in the Senate seat, was ambassador to Germany for President Bush. GOP presidential candidates have won this district handily. In 2008, John McCain carried it with 56% of the vote.