Rep. Steve Buyer (R)
Indiana 4th District
The landscape of central Indiana is some of the most prosaic in the United States. It is mostly flat, with neat farms and towns of frame bungalows, looking mostly unchanged from many years ago. Across this landscape run some of the nation’s chief transportation arteries. The earliest was the old National Road, from Baltimore to St. Louis, which was paralleled by U.S. 40 in the 1930s. The region was also crisscrossed by the great east-west rail lines carrying famed passenger trains like the old Wabash Cannonball. There is no Cannonball today. People bounce around the Midwest on commuter airlines from small city to hub, and U.S. 40 has been replaced by Interstate 70. The landscape still looks rural, and there are some large farms. But the economy is more industrial, with small factories in crossroads and courthouse towns. This is a part of America with little heritage from the early waves of immigration, relatively few blacks, and only modest numbers of Latino and Asian immigrants.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of Indiana covers much of this territory, running from Indiana’s northern plains to its southern hills. It includes all or part of 12 counties in western Indiana, including the far western edge of Indianapolis and Marion County. It extends south to Lawrence County, the source of the limestone used to rebuild the Pentagon after the September 11 attacks. The largest city is Lafayette, where the main employer is Purdue University. Growing and prosperous, the city has benefited from a 2006 partnership between Toyota and longtime local manufacturer Subaru to annually produce 100,000 Camry sedans while continuing to produce Subarus. Lafayette ranked sixth on Forbes magazine’s 2009 list of “smartest small towns in America,” and it tends to vote Republican. Even more Republican are the small counties and the suburban territory outside Indianapolis, such as fast-growing Hendricks County, which delivered 73% for George W. Bush in 2004 and 61% for John McCain in 2008.
Rep. Steve Buyer (R)
Elected: 1992, 9th term.
Born: Nov. 26, 1958, Rensselaer .
Education: The Citadel, B.S. 1980, Valparaiso U., J.D. 1984.
Family: Married (Joni); 2 children.
Military career: Army, 1984–87, 1990–91 (Persian Gulf); Army Reserves, 1980–84, 1987–present.
Professional Career: IN dep. atty. gen., 1987–88; Vice chmn., White Cnty. Repub. Party, 1988–90; Practicing atty., 1988–92.
The 4th District’s congressman is Steve Buyer (BOO-yer), a Republican elected in 1992. Buyer grew up in White County, graduated from the Citadel, served in the Army, and then worked in Indianapolis. He later started a family law practice in Monticello, where he joined all the civic organizations. As a captain in the Army Reserve, he was called to active duty in the fall of 1990, serving as legal adviser at a prisoner-of-war camp in the Persian Gulf. Buyer was enraged that most House Democrats, including then-Rep. Jim Jontz, voted against the war. After Buyer returned to Indiana, where he was White County Republican vice chairman, he began making speeches around the Hoosier heartland attacking Jontz on his Gulf War stand. Although a seasoned politician, Jontz lost to Buyer, 51%-49%.
|Steve Buyer (R)||192,526||(60%)||($969,469)|
|Nels Ackerson (D)||129,038||(40%)||($870,680)|
|Steve Buyer (R)||45,538||(72%)|
|Mike Campbell (R)||9,541||(15%)|
|LaRon Keith (R)||8,545||(13%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (62%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (71%), 2000 (61%), 1998 (63%), 1996 (65%), 1994 (70%), 1992 (51%)
In Washington in his early years, Buyer went to work on the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, where he spent much time on the problems of returning soldiers suffering the effects of Gulf War syndrome. In 2003, still in the Army Reserves, Buyer was called to duty again, and he received a leave of absence from GOP Speaker Dennis Hastert. But the Army notified Buyer that his high-profile status as a congressman would jeopardize both him and fellow soldiers, and he was not deployed. In 2004, Buyer led an investigation that uncovered lapses in the hiring process for medical practitioners at Veterans Administration hospitals. When he chaired the Military Personnel Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, he won enactment of an expansion of health care benefits for military retirees.
In early 2005, the House Republican leadership ousted Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Chris Smith of New Jersey after he refused to go along with cuts in veterans’ program spending. The leaders elevated Buyer to chairman, and in two years in that role, he worked to create a seamless transition between the Defense Department and the Veterans Administration, including the development of a system to share electronic medical records. To stop antiwar protesters from interfering with funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq, he filed a bill to restrict demonstrations at federal cemeteries. When Democrats took over the majority in 2007, Buyer clashed frequently with committee Chairman Bob Filner of California. In an interview with the Filipino Express in 2007, Buyer described himself as “schooled in honor and in trust and all the virtues and values that go with military bearing,” in contrast to Filner, who he said was “a public activist, anti-institution and doesn’t give a damn about the rules.”
On the Energy and Commerce Committee, Buyer has focused on telecommunications and health care issues, including the creation of health savings accounts to pay for medical expenses. He defended the Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly Company, a major local employer, from industry critics—notably, fellow Republican Rep. Dan Burton, from an adjacent district—who wanted to permit states to create preferred lists for mental-health drugs for Medicaid patients. Buyer spoke out for increased domestic production of oil as well as alternative fuels.
In the redistricting in 2002, state Democrats sliced up Buyer’s old 5th District so that its remains were grafted onto seven of Indiana’s nine surviving districts. Buyer chose to run in the district with his hometown of Monticello (population 5,723), and that happened to be the most heavily Republican. It also happened to belong to the least senior member of the delegation—first-term Republican Brian Kerns. Still, this newly drawn 4th District was 97% new to Buyer. He emphasized that Kerns’s home in Vigo County was 70 miles outside the new 4th District. Kerns said Buyer should run elsewhere. Buyer outraised Kerns by more than 3-to-1, and the result wasn’t close. Buyer bested Kerns 55%-30%, carrying every county. Buyer has won re-election easily since then.