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Local politics

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4 state lawmakers to face primary tests

Senate District 15 race draws field of GOP power hitters

– Four sitting state lawmakers will have competition in the May primary, and 11 incumbents will go uncontested.

The filing deadline for state legislative seats passed at noon Friday. All 100 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats are up for election.

Northeast Indiana’s pre-eminent race will be for the state Senate District 15 seat, which is open for the first time since 1985. Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, is not seeking re-election.

Some heavy hitters have lined up in this race, including two-term Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries, former Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Liz Brown, Allen County Councilman Darren Vogt and Jeffrey Snyder, chief executive officer of Snyder Food Services.

Attorney Jack Morris has filed for the Democratic nomination. He was the party’s nominee in 2010.

The incumbents facing primary challengers include two area representatives who recently voted against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, faces tea party activist Curt Nisly in House District 22, and Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, faces two Republican opponents – Steven Hively and Christopher Judy – in House District 83.

Also, Warsaw attorney David Kolbe is running on the Democratic side in House District 22.

Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, faces an expected primary given his new arrival to the Indiana House. He was appointed in October to fill a vacancy in House District 85 due to the death of Rep. Phyllis Pond, R-New Haven.

His challengers are perennial candidate Denny Worman and former educator Ken Knoblauch.

For the first time since his remarks criticizing the Girl Scouts in 2012, Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, will have a primary opponent in House District 84 – Fort Wayne attorney Michael Barranda. Morris’ comments, which became national fodder, came just after the filing deadline two years ago.

Here are how the other northeast Indiana races shape up:

House District 18 – Incumbent Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake

House District 50 – Incumbent Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington

House District 51 – Incumbent Rep. Dennis Zent, R-Angola

House District 52 – Incumbent Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-Auburn; Charlie Odier of St. Joe filed on the Democratic side

House District 79 – Incumbent Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne

House District 80 – Incumbent Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne

House District 81 – Incumbent Rep. Martin Carbaugh, R-Fort Wayne

House District 82 – Incumbent Rep. Kevin Ober, R-Albion; Democrat Mike Wilber is also running

Senate District 14 – Incumbent Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn

Senate District 17 – Incumbent Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City

Senate District 19 – Incumbent Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle


Three Democrats and three Republicans, including incumbent Rep. Marlin Stutzman, filed as candidates for Congress in Indiana’s 3rd District.

Stutzman, a LaGrange County farmer, seeks his third full term. He will be challenged in the GOP primary by Mark William Baringer and James Mahoney III.

Mahoney is a Huntington resident and a former parks official in Merrillville and Schererville.

The Journal Gazette was unable to reach Baringer for information. Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said he was unfamiliar with Baringer, who filed Friday.

Democrats who filed for the 3rd District include two who sought their party’s nomination in 2012: Justin Kuhnle of Kendallville and Tommy Schrader of Fort Wayne.

Schrader finished a distant second in that year’s primary election, and Kuhnle, a social services caseworker, was fourth.

Also filing for this year’s Democratic nomination was Auburn resident Jim Redmond, who works in manufacturing management.

Northeast Indiana voters have not elected a Democrat to Congress since 1992, when then-Rep. Jill Long won her third term.

Indiana’s nine congressional seats attracted 29 Democratic candidates and 22 Republicans.

All nine incumbents filed for re-election, and three do not face primary-election challenges: Reps. Peter Visclosky, D-1st; Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd; and Rep. Luke Messer, R-6th.

Mark Leyva is unopposed for the GOP nomination in the 1st District.

House terms are for two years and pay $174,000 a year.

Brian Francisco of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.