Replacing Bayh

As part of the program at the March Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) State Board of Directors’ meeting, we heard four of the five Republican candidates running against Brad Ellsworth for Evan Bayh’s Senate seat speak.  There were three politicians, Marlin Stutzman, John Hostettler and Dan Coats.  The fourth, John Bates, Jr., has not held political office in the past.  This wasn’t a debate.  Each candidate was allowed to make a short introductory speech and then they took questions from the audience.  It was set up in half hour time slots, so we received individual presentations.

Marlin Stutzman

Marlin Stutzman is currently an Indiana State Senator.  He comes from a farm family in the northeast part of the State and has served several terms in State office.  He spoke well and came across as sincere.  He was probably the least comfortable with the forum, but he warmed up quickly and delivered his message well.  ABC said he had been a friend of our organization and our industry and has always dealt with us honestly and fairly.  Mr. Stutzman came across as a genuinely nice guy with good intentions.  Someone whose heart is in the right place.

John Hostettler

John Hostettler is a former U.S. Congressman.  He also spoke sincerely and explained how he lost his position as a congressman and favor of the Republican Party over issues where he did not side with the party and President Bush.  His reasoning was based on sound conservative principles and his commitment not to compromise those principles.  He has been a friend to ABC as well and has dealt with us honestly and fairly.

Dan Coats

Dan Coats is a former U.S. Senator, previously holding the office currently held by Evan Bayh.  He spoke candidly about his reasons for leaving office when he did and his recent experiences in political positions outside the State of Indiana.  He stated that his heart has always been with Indiana and that he and his wife looked forward to the opportunity to move back here and represent Indiana again.  He emphasized the archaic workings of the Senate and that in the current political climate, Indiana needed someone who could hit the ground running and begin getting things done immediately.  He has that knowledge.  ABC indicated that he has been a friend to ABC as well and has dealt with us honestly and fairly.

Don Bates, Jr.

Don Bates, Jr. is a financial advisor for Wells Fargo.  He also has a farming background.  He has never held an elected office and has a business background.  He seemed to be a straight talker and said he began contemplating a run for Evan Bayh’s seat in the midst of the fall-out from the 2008 elections.  While he was stern and serious with his message, he also had a sense of humor.  “I filed to run for Senate and Evan announced his decision to not run the next day.  I guess I might as well take the credit for scaring him out of office!”  My impression of Mr. Bates was that he was the most socially conservative of the bunch.  He spoke much more about family values than fiscal issues.

All of the candidates fielded questions from the audience.  It was probably fair that none of the other candidates were in the room as each was speaking, but I think it would have been insightful for them to have heard how the tenor of the questioning went.  With the candidates that had previously held office, the questions were much more critical as the level of previous office held increased.  Mr. Stutzman was given much more leeway in answers than Mr. Hostettler and the questions to Mr. Coats were then fairly intense.  That somewhat follows with my assessment of the political landscape where incumbents and/or career politicians are under intense scrutiny.  There seems to be strong undercurrent of “Throw the bums out!” throughout the Country of late and I felt this showed up in the questioning.  This was strong two years ago and swept Obama and the Democrats into power.  They’ve shown no better leadership and it may well be the impetus of another swing in power in the coming election.

It’s unfortunate, but I feel like the backroom dealings of Washington politics eventually taint nearly everyone that goes there.  I understand the sentiment of voting against every incumbent on the ballot.  I also think that’ is impractical and short-sighted.  There are some good people there and they should be rewarded for going against the flow and continuing to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, Senator Bayh talked a good line about not liking how things were done, but instead of staying out of the race, has not only thrown his support but extensive financial support to Mr. Ellsworth, the lone Democrat running for the office.  In my opinion this negates his comments about how the representatives should answer to their constituents and smacks of attempted king-making on his part.

Getting to hear these candidates speak directly was very helpful.  Something I rarely get to do with the other candidates.  I followed up afterwards, looking at their websites, and it seems they are consistent in their presentations.  I haven’t made a final decision, but I have a pretty good idea.

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