Car Dealer Opens Wallet, Poses Threat To Incumbent In Congressional Primary

By Jeff Neumeyer

June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 6, 2010 at 6:27 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- You would expect eight-term incumbent Congressman Mark Souder to be a heavy favorite to win re-election in the May Primary.

But he is gearing up for what he believes will be a serious challenge from at least one of his opponents.

Car dealer Bob Thomas is a newcomer to politics, but he and Souder are going at it in a big way in the 3rd District Congressional contest.

Greg Dickman and Phil Troyer are also on the ballot, but what makes Thomas standout is he is a wealthy man, and he has no reservation about spending his own money to try and snatch the seat.

Thomas, who owns Dimension Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in Fort Wayne, has put out television ads and direct mailings highly critical of Souder.

One mailing questions whether Souder has forgotten his conservative roots, listing his “yes” votes for the Cash for Clunkers program, the Wall Street bailout, and the auto industry bailout.

Souder says those votes were in the best interest of the country and of this area in particular, and that Thomas wouldn’t know that, because he’s lived in the Indianapolis area the past 25 years.

Souder is attacking Thomas for that issue, something that changed recently when Thomas rented an apartment in Fort Wayne.

Thomas says the residency argument is hollow.

Bob Thomas/(R) Congressional Candidate: " When he didn't even live in the state before he ran, he has lived in Washington since the early 1980’s. It’s typical Souder, hypocritical baloney."

U.S. Rep. Mark Souder/(R) Indiana 3rd District: " I'm from here, it matters how I care about here, and I don't think we should take a risk on somebody who hasn't been here, who hasn't been through the battles, who doesn't know what the different needs of this area are."

Thomas had paid for at least three different television ads, noteworthy in a primary election.

There are indications he could spend a half million dollars or more in the race.

Souder concedes he will spend at least 200-thousand to compete.

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