Stutzman to seek nomination for Souder's seat

Marlin Stutzman ran a surprisingly strong campaign for the GOP nomination for the open US Senate seat in Indiana, beating former Congressman John Hostettler and finishing second to the nominee, former Senator Dan Coats.  The Tea Party candidate has decided to put that momentum to work a little sooner than expected.  He will press for the Republican nomination to succeed Rep. Mark Souder, who resigned in the midst of a sex scandal:

State Sen. Marlin Stutzman, who came up short in a Republican Senate primary this month, has told associates he will announce his candidacy for the seat Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) resigned from Tuesday.

Stutzman, state Rep. Randy Borror, Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Liz Brown, and Fort Wayne attorney Phil Troyer, who came up short in his primary challenge to Souder earlier this month, have all begun to inform party leaders they will seek Souder’s seat, according to a local Indiana GOP official.

Indiana Republicans will begin a process within the next 30 days to choose a special election candidate for the House seat. The selection process will begin with a precinct caucus meeting. Since Indiana already held its primary elections earlier this month, local party leaders will convene again later in the year to choose a nominee for the regularly scheduled November election.

Other possible candidates for the seat include, state Senate President Pro Tempore David Long and Bob Thomas, a wealthy auto dealer who drew more than 30 percent of the vote in a self-funded primary challenge to Souder.

This is pretty good news for the Republicans.  Stutzman is an obvious comer in the party who would have had to wait another two years to move up.  His almost-out-of-nowhere rise in the primaries will hold him in good stead with party officials who have to make a relatively quick decision, thanks to Souder’s lousy timing.

However, don’t discount Thomas, either.  Parties like self-funded candidates, especially when caught by surprise in an opening.  The negative on Thomas may be his weak showing earlier this month.  If Thomas, self-funding, could only get into the mid-30s against an incumbent  in this cycle, he may not have enough juice on his own to withstand a serious challenge from Democrats, although this cycle presents its own challenges to Democrats with or without Thomas.

At the moment, the Indiana GOP have some good choices in front of them in an otherwise bad situation.  It also appears that they won’t have to face the situation Democrats did in Hawaii, where multiple candidates from their party wound up splitting the vote in that special election to replace Neil Abercrombie.