Columbia City, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) ---State Senator Marlin Stutzman turned Saturday’s Republican Congressional nominating caucus into a one-sided affair, capturing an overwhelming victory in only two rounds of voting.
In the decisive second round, the LaGrange County state legislator had more than three times the votes of his closest competitor, and shortly after the win, he was already talking about November.
407 precinct committeemen and women poured into the Indian Springs Middle School gymnasium to nominate the party's successor to Mark Souder.
That was almost 100 fewer party officials than were eligible to cast ballots for one of 15 candidates in the running.
Before voting commenced, each candidate made one last plea for support.
Randy Borror/(R) 3rd District Candidate: " I will defend the 2nd Amendment and I will tell you I will defend the 2nd Amendment in Washington D.C. every day of the week."
Liz Brown/(R) 3rd District Candidate: " When elected, I will look Obama, Pelosi and their like in the eye and say, Obama change? No thanks. Keep the change, Mr. President."
Around noon, precinct folks made their selections on paper ballots.
The caucus rule that you needed 5 percent or 21 votes to survive round one, knocked ten candidates out right off the bat.
Former Fort Wayne City Council candidate Bob Morris failed to advance by just five votes.
Bob Morris/(R) 3rd District Candidate: " I thought I'd make it out of the first round, from what I was hearing from the floor. But you know, when people place their vote within the ballot box, you're not sure what they're doing."
Stutzman snatched 180 votes, only 24 short of gaining a majority to end things in the initial count.
Bob Thomas could see the handwriting on the wall.
Bob Thomas/(R) Finished 5th in Balloting: " It became an urban versus rural type set up, and Marlin was going to come out ahead in that deal."
Indeed, Stutzman's four second round opponents didn't even bother working the floor to try and switch votes to turn the tide.
Murray Clark/Indiana Republican Party Chair: " Marlin Stutzman 229." (cheering)
Those 229 votes garnered in round two put him easily over the top.
He quickly looked to heal any damage from the spirited campaign.
Marlin Stutzman/(R) 3rd District Congressional Nominee: " But we cannot allow Nancy Pelosi to pick off the Third District here in Indiana. It's going to take everybody in this room to work hard to get this job done."
Stutzman: " I have an amazing family, I mean, I really do. From my dad, he worked hard, being a farmer. My mom, too, they're wonderful, and if I didn't have them, I wouldn't be where I'm at today."
The second, third and fourth place finishers accepted their fate graciously.
Randy Borror: " I knew with the number of votes that I received, that the day was over for everybody, except for Marlin, and again, I'll support him in the fall."
Liz Brown: " I'll tell you, he's worked hard, obviously, he has been running for almost two years, since he ran for the Senate seat, and then this. You know, he had a great base already, so, I mean I knew that coming in to this."
Ryan Elijah/(R) Finished Third in Voting: " I have nothing but respect for the Stutzman campaign, he said some gracious things before today, saying that we ran a clean campaign, and at the end of the day, he had overwhelming support, and he did very well in Allen County."
Stutzman reaching out after his victory to the other candidates in the field helped concerns that the party could be fractured from the contentious caucus.
But with 14 losers in the process, there has to be some nervousness about getting the other camps energized behind Stutzman in the fall campaign.
Democrat and former Fort Wayne City Council Member Dr. Tom Hayhurst is the likely opponent for Stutzman in November.He has name recognition in Allen County, the biggest county in the district, and he has strong fund-raising capacity, especially when you consider the National Democratic Party will assuredly pour money into the race, seeing a chance to steal a seat traditionally held by the Republicans.
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