GOSHEN, Ind. (AP/WANE) -- - The Indiana state senator and tea party favorite who announcedThursday that he would seek U.S. Rep. Mark Souder's seat said hehad questioned the fellow Republican several years ago over talk ofan inappropriate relationship with a staffer.
Marlin Stutzman, considered by many a front-runner for theRepublican nomination for the seat after finishing second in thismonth's U.S. Senate primary, entered the race two days after Souderadmitted an extramarital affair and said he would resign fromCongress.
Stutzman said Thursday he had heard rumors years earlierwhile working for the congressman as a special assistant in thedistrict. He said he and another staff member confronted Souder,who denied the allegations.
"I trusted my boss and what he said," Stutzman said.
He said he heard similar rumors before the May 4 primary thisyear, and rejected suggestions that his campaign helped plant thattalk, calling that a "smear tactic."
Stutzman, a farm owner from Howe, finished second to formerSen. Dan Coats in the GOP's U.S. Senate primary.
A special election in the 3rd District to complete Souder'sterm through this year hasn't yet been set by Republican Gov. MitchDaniels. Caucuses of Republican and Democratic committeemen willpick the special election nominees.
Souder, an evangelical Christian who promoted abstinenceeducation and the virtues of family values, announced this weekthat he would resign effective Friday after publicly admitting thathe cheated on his wife of 36 years with a married part-time aide.
Monica Boyer, a leader of the Kosciusko County tea partygroup Silent No More, said she was "heartbroken" over Souder'sactions and would back Stutzman. Her group didn't endorsecandidates in the Republican primary, but said Stutzman fits theprofile of a candidate who is "fiscally, socially and morallyconservative."
Stutzman was 26 when in 2002 he won his first of threeelections the Indiana House and then was elected to the stateSenate in 2008.
State Democratic Chairman Dan Parker said before Stutzman'sannouncement that a switch to the congressional race would takeaway Stutzman's "ability to say he's not a career politician, whichwas his argument against Dan Coats."
Stutzman rejected that, saying he'd rather be running hisfarm and business but thinks Washington needs fresh blood.
"This is not about an office, this is about a cause," hesaid. "We have to change Washington."
Other possible candidates include two Republicans whom Souderdefeated in the primary -- Bob Thomas and Phil Troyer -- as well asstate Reps. Randy Borror of Fort Wayne, Wes Culver of Goshen andFort Wayne City Councilwoman Liz Brown.
Democrat Tom Hayhurst, a former Fort Wayne city councilmanwho got who got 46 percent of the vote against Souder in 2006, ishis party's nominee for November's general election. Parker saidHayhurst also would likely be Democrats' pick for the specialelection since he is their strongest candidate in theRepublican-leaning district.
Stutzman's announcement schedule is asfollows:
10:00 in Goshen at Elkhart County GOP
11:30 in Angola at Swick Communications
1:30 in Kendallville at KPC News
4:30 in Fort Wayne at GOP HQ
6:30 in Lagrange at the 3rd district meeting
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