As of early next year, his district boundaries shift and U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman will no longer represent Elkhart County in the U.S. House of Representatives.
It’s got him sniffing with nostalgia — a little, anyway. The 3rd District U.S. lawmaker has family in Elkhart County, after all, and he attended a church here at one time.
“It’ll always have a place in my heart,” said Stutzman, a Republican from Howe in neighboring LaGrange County, just to the east of Elkhart County.
That said, Stutzman notes that he won’t be that far away, and other movers and shakers in Elkhart County think the county will weather on, represented just by the 2nd District lawmaker, U.S. Rep.-elect Jackie Walorski, R-Elkhart.
“I don’t really see it as a problem,” said Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman.
As is, Elkhart County has two representatives in the U.S. House — the lawmakers from the 2nd and 3rd districts. The 2nd District — currently represented by U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Granger, who moves to the U.S. Senate next year — covers northwestern Elkhart County, including much of Elkhart. The rest of the county, including Goshen, sits in the 3rd District.
Per redistricting, though, which takes effect next January, Elkhart County will sit entirely in the 2nd District, which seeps into 10 counties of north-central Indiana. The 3rd District, covering much of northeastern Indiana, shifts out.
Walorski, in a statement, noted her efforts on behalf of Elkhart County when she held the Indiana House seat for District 21, which partially covers the country. As state representative, she spent “ample time” helping Elkhart County recreational vehicle companies deal with the fallout of the Great Recession, she said, and she’s confident the relationships “will continue to grow.”
‘TWO OFFICES TO CALL’
That said, Elkhart County goes from having two U.S. House members who locals can call for help to just one. And the change isn’t lost on local leaders who occasionally have to lobby the feds for grant funding or other assitance.
“It has been kind of nice for us to have two congressional contacts,” said Kyle Hannon, vice president for public policy at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Elkhart City Council. “You kind of feel you have double the representation. You have two offices to call.”
During hearings that led to the redistricting — handled by state officials, and shifted per the 2010 U.S. Census — he publicly noted that he liked having two representatives in the U.S. House.
Still, Hannon, like most local leaders, isn’t losing sleep over the looming change. As is, leaders serving northern Indiana, even U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican from southwestern Michigan, have looked at issues regionally, not just within the confines of their particular district.
“As long as they work regionally, I don’t think that will be an issue,” said Hannon, a Republican.
For his part, Kauffman, a Democrat, said it makes more sense for Elkhart and Goshen to be in the same district with South Bend, since the area is in a common media market. The biggest population center in the 3rd District is Fort Wayne.
Sean Savage, a political scientist at St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, doesn’t see Elkhart County losing influence with the district shift. He looks at it another way — Elkhart County residents strongly favored Walorski in her slim win over Democrat Brendan Mullen in the Nov. 6 election. Accordingly, Walorski may be particularly attentive to the county to maintain that backing.
JUST NEXT DOOR
Either way, Stutzman suspects Elkhart County concerns will make their way onto his desk in some form. LaGrange County, like Elkhart County, has an RV sector and in addressing the industry, he’ll at least indirectly be impacting Elkhart County. Plus, geographically, he’s just next door.
“It’s not that I’ll be very far away,” Stutzman said.
Indiana Congressional Districts (starting 2013)
Indiana Old Congressional Districts