Rep. Mark Souder (R)
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.
Rep. Mark Souder (R)
Elected: 1994, 8th term.
Born: July 18, 1950, Ft. Wayne .
Home: Ft. Wayne.
Education: IN U., B.S. 1972, Notre Dame U., M.B.A. 1974.
Family: Married (Diane); 3 children.
Professional Career: Furniture salesman, 1976–83; Staff dir., U.S. House Select Cmte. on Children, Youth & Families, 1984–89; Legis. dir., U.S. Sen. Dan Coats, 1989–91, Dep. chief of staff, 1991–93.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Mark Souder (SOW-dur), a Republican first elected in 1994. Souder grew up in Grabill, 10 miles from Fort Wayne, where his Amish great-great-grandfather’s family settled. In 1907, the family started Souders of Grabill, originally a harness shop and now a furniture store and manufacturer of store fixtures. As an undergraduate at Indiana University, where he was student body president, Souder wore a button that said, “I’m proud to be a square.” He worked in the family business in Grabill, then went to work in 1984 for Coats as staff director of the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families. He moved with Coats to the Senate in 1989, where Souder was his legislative director. In 1993, he returned to Fort Wayne to run against Democratic Rep. Jill Long, who had won a special election to succeed Coats when he was appointed to the Senate. With a moderate record and a farm background, she was not an easy target. But Souder, after winning a six-candidate primary with 40%, raised more money. In a highly favorable year for Republicans, Souder won with 55% to 45% for Long.
|Mark Souder (R)||155,693||(55%)||($1,064,302)|
|Michael Montagano (D)||112,309||(40%)||($854,573)|
|William Larsen (Lib)||14,877||(5%)|
|Mark Souder (R)||40,161||(77%)|
|Scott Wise (R)||11,946||(23%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (54%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (63%), 2000 (62%), 1998 (63%), 1996 (58%), 1994 (55%)
Souder says that he is “most defined by the fact that I’m an evangelical Christian.” He once told an interviewer with the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette: It “isn’t like it takes away all problems. It’s just that you get a peace about the problems.” In Washington, despite his solidly conservative views, he initially was a rebel in the House against his party leadership. As a leader of the Conservative Action Team, which was an influential faction in the 1990s, Souder challenged House appropriators for excessive spending, including their hitting-too-close-to-home members’ office allowances. He often voted against Republican bills because they didn’t go far enough to the right. He opposed the balanced-budget amendment of the mid-1990s because it did not require a supermajority to raise taxes. He takes a conservative’s pro-gun-rights position, and in September 2008, the House passed his amendment to repeal the District of Columbia’s new ban on handguns.
Souder has been active on issues to stem the domestic drug trade. As chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee dealing with criminal justice and drug policy, Souder held hearings on growing addiction to methamphetamines, and he blamed weak enforcement in the 1990s for reviving drug abuse among the young. In 2006, President Bush signed his Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act, the most comprehensive government attack on meth trafficking to date; it included restrictions on consumer purchases, monitoring of sales at the wholesale level, and increased criminal enforcement. Souder also sponsored the reauthorization of the Office of Drug Control Policy Act. To clarify a controversial Clinton-era law he helped enact that denied those with past drug convictions access to federal student loans, Souder inserted the Drug-Free Student Loans amendment in the deficit-reduction law that specifies only students enrolled in college at the time of their drug conviction lose access to loans.
Although he had serious objections to Bush’s military surge in Iraq in 2007, he objected that a proposal to condemn the plan was contrary to the national interest. Souder was also one of only 32 House Republicans who voted for the bailout of the Big Three automakers in December 2008. “My job is to defend my region,” he said.
Over the years, Souder has faced a string of weak Democratic challengers. But after abandoning his original pledge to serve no more than 12 years, he faced credible opposition in 2006 from Tom Hayhurst, a retired pulmonary physician and Fort Wayne City Council member. Hayhurst called for affordable health care and opposed making abortion illegal. Souder purchased extensive advertising to tout his record. In a dismal year for Indiana Republicans, Souder was outspent by Hayhurst, but held on with a 54%-46% victory. He won all eight counties, though by fewer than 1,000 votes in Allen County, where he lost Fort Wayne. In 2008, he faced another competitive challenger: Mike Montagano, a 27-year-old attorney, a prolific fundraiser who attempted to nationalize the contest. Montagano said that Souder had failed to “make a difference” during 14 years in Congress; Souder cited his experience and deep roots in the district. Both candidates opposed abortion rights, backed gun ownership, and called for sealing the border before giving citizenship rights to illegal aliens. Souder won 55%-40%.