SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Voter dissatisfaction with Congress didn’t stop Indiana’s nine members of the U.S. House from breezing to victories Tuesday in the state’s primary.
Although voters said they were unhappy with the job Congress was doing, three of the nine incumbents — Reps. Pete Visclosky, Jackie Walorski and Luke Messer — didn’t face primary challenges, and none of the remaining six faced serious threats Tuesday.
Rep. Marlin Stutzman, who easily defeated two Republican challengers in northeast Indiana and is expected to be heavily favored this fall, said he understands why voters are upset.
“When you look at Congress as a whole and the policies that have come out of Washington, it’s very easy for all of us to say that Congress is not getting the job done. I would be in that group as well,” he said. “We need people in Washington who are going to understand that a balanced budget is important. That getting debt under control is important.”
Rep. Larry Bucshon, who easily defeated conservative Andrew McNeil in southwestern Indiana’s 8th District, said he thinks people are frustrated that the House and Senate are controlled by different parties and can’t agree on issues.
“But I think they recognize their individual members are doing the best they can to represent their districts,” said Bucshon, who will face Democrat Tom Spangler, a Jasper businessman, in November.
Tuesday’s congressional primaries were a much quieter affair than the last two elections, which each featured only three open seats. All the incumbents will likely be favored in the fall, although Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said Democrats’ best chance might be in the 2nd District. Walorski won that seat two years ago with 49 percent of the vote after Democrat Joe Donnelly ran for Senate.
The northern Indiana district has long been viewed as a swing district, Downs said. But it has leaned more Republican since congressional maps were redrawn.
Walorski will be challenged by University of Notre Dame faculty member Joe Bock, who defeated three other Democrats. Bock was director of global health training at Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health until he announced his candidacy.
Bock is hoping to take advantage of people’s unhappiness with Congress in the fall.
“To be successful in this endeavor requires somebody who is able to solve problems. I’ve worked on crises all over the world. This is one of the worst crises right now in the world, the U.S. House of Representatives.”
But freshman GOP U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, who beat two challengers in the 5th District in central Indiana, said she doesn’t believe voters are as upset at Congress as many say, at least not the House.
“I can’t tell you how many people came up to me and indicated how unhappy they are with the Senate. So when people are saying they’re unhappy with Congress, at least the voters that turned out today, it wasn’t unhappiness with the House,” said Brooks, who will run this fall against Democrat Shawn Denney, a history teacher at Indiana Connections Academy.
Republican U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita in the 4th, and Todd Young in the 7th won easily, as did Democratic Rep. Andre Carson in the 7th, all of whom are expected to be heavily favored in the fall. Rokita will be challenged by Western Boone High School teacher John Dale; Young will face Democrat Bill Bailey, a former mayor of Seymour and state representative; will campaign against Catherine Ping, a retired Army Reserve officer who owns a small computer technology company.
Among the incumbents who ran unopposed in the primary, Messer will be challenged this fall by Susan Heitzman of North Vernon, a retired teacher and Visclosky will face Republican Mark Leyva of Highland for the sixth time.
If they win in November, they’ll still face voters unhappy with Washington gridlock.
Bruce Jones, 51, a stock broker from South Bend, said his displeasure with Congress is a reason he votes, even in quiet years like this one.
“I want the person who best represents us in Congress, and somehow I never seem to get that,” he said.