Indiana: Fourth District|
Rep. Mark Souder (R)
Last Updated May 24, 1999
The northeast corner of Indiana, in the center of a flat agricultural area, can claim to be the center of Middle America. Its first settlers were 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, 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. Today Fort Wayne has more white-collar jobs.
The 4th Congressional District consists of nine counties in northeast Indiana, plus a bit of Jay County. It includes Fort Wayne, Huntington and Columbia City but not North Manchester. Politically this area is ancestrally Republican since the Civil War years. Since the New Deal, it has sometimes veered Democratic in times of economic distress. This part of Indiana is also a cradle of vice presidents: Thomas Marshall, Woodrow Wilson's vice president, was born in North Manchester and practiced law in Columbia City; Dan Quayle spent his high school years and later practiced law in Huntington. Quayle won this seat in 1976 and represented the district for two terms.
The congressman from the 4th District is Mark Souder, 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. There the family started Souder's of Grabill in 1907, originally a harness shop and now a furniture store and manufacturer of store fixtures. Souder worked in the furniture business, returned to Grabill, then went to work in 1984 for Dan Coats as minority staff director of the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families. He moved with Coats to the Senate in 1989, where he served as his legislative director and deputy chief of staff. In 1993 he returned to Fort Wayne and started running against Jill Long, a Democrat elected to replace Coats. With a moderate record and a farm background, she was not an easy target. But Souder raised more money and won a six-candidate primary with 40%; the state Republican ticket was also running far ahead of the Democrats in the 4th District. The result was a 55%-45% Souder victory.
Despite his Washington experience, Souder has continued to be something of a rebel in the House, even against his own party's leaders. Souder says that he is ''most defined by the fact that I'm an evangelical Christian.'' Elected vice president of the freshman class, he voted against the balanced budget amendment because it did not require a supermajority to raise taxes. Majority Leader Dick Armey once said, ''Tell Souder I always assume that if there's trouble, it's him.'' When Souder and John Hostettler cast two of the 17 votes against a continuing resolution in January 1996, Gingrich announced that he would not appear at fundraisers for them. Said Souder, ''This is a test of whether you can vote your conscience.'' He refused to sponsor a National Right-to-Work Committee though he favored it after the group sent a mailing to his district urging voters to demand he sponsor it.
Souder has been active on drug issues and served on Gingrich's drugs task force. In 1996 he proposed cutting off assistance to Mexico if it did not stop the drug flow. A modified version passed the conference committee, but the administration has continued to endorse Mexico's anti-drug efforts. He blamed Bill Clinton's ''half-hearted'' anti-drug message for increased drug use by teens. Frustrated that the House would not do so, Souder imposed drug testing on his own staff. He helped manage the drug-free workplace law that passed the House by a wide margin in June 1998 and sponsored an amendment to require those who lose student loans because of drug convictions to test negative before loans are resumed; with that adopted, he voted for the Higher Education Act. On other education issues, Souder sponsored a High Hopes program with Democrat Chaka Fattah sending letters to low-income sixth and seventh graders informing them of the availability of aid for college. He also sponsored a five-year test of IRA-type savings accounts for low income families, to be used for first homes, higher education, emergency medical service and business capitalization.
In September 1996 Souder called for an investigation of the INS program Citizenship USA; charging, presciently, that the Clinton Administration was seeking to naturalize new citizens unduly quickly so they could vote in November. But after being re-elected easily, he agonized before announcing finally on January 2, 1997, that he would vote to re-elect Newt Gingrich as speaker. In July 1997, when the coup against Gingrich failed, Souder said that turmoil was likely to continue as long as he was speaker. ''He changes positions on fundamental legislation without telling anyone,'' Souder complained. Yet he also complained that the Gingrich leadership didn't have ''A-B-C fallback plans'' (which presumably require such maneuvers), just ''A-whoops.'' In November 1997, even before the Monica Lewinsky scandal became public, he called for the impeachment of Bill Clinton for his ''systematic abuses of office.'' But in November 1998, when impeachment was looming, he announced he would vote against; in December he voted for the third article and against the others.
Souder was comfortably re-elected in 1998.
Probably Safe. Souder's vote against three of the impeachment articles has already drawn him a Republican opponent: Allen County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Mike Loomis. It remains to be seen, however, whether Souder, who has racked up big winning margins of late, is all that vulnerable, even in a primary. Regardless, the district (despite a lapse in the early 1990s when it elected a Democrat for two terms) remains fundamentally Republican and conservative.
- Pop. 1990: 554,577
- 40.4% rural;
12.5% age 65+;
- 92.9% White,
0.3% Amer. Indian,
1.5% Hispanic origin;
60.7% married couple families;
30.8% married couple fams. w. children;
40% college educ.;
median household income: $30,859;
per capita income: $13,436;
median gross rent: $295;
median house value: $56,500.
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