Fort Wayne auto dealer Bob Thomas announced Wednesday that he likely will be a candidate for Congress next year – unless he runs for governor.
Thomas said he will decide by July and that his decision will be based largely on whether Republican Gov. Mike Pence seeks re-election. Pence has not disclosed his plans.
“If Pence runs, I’m going to run against him,” Thomas told reporters in a showroom of his Ford-Lincoln dealership on Coliseum Boulevard.
Thomas, 64, said he planned to pursue the Republican nomination in the northeast Indiana 3rd Congressional District – even though he lives in Carmel, in the central Indiana 5th District – until people began urging him to run in the 2016 GOP gubernatorial primary election.
The owner of three auto dealerships in Fort Wayne and two in Indianapolis, Thomas twice sought the GOP nomination in the 3rd District in 2010 – first in the primary and later in a party caucus to fill a ballot vacancy. A congressional candidate must live in the state of the district seat he seeks to represent but not in the district itself.
“I live and die in the 3rd District every single day,” Thomas said. “I have supplied over a thousand families with jobs and economic opportunities. I’ve collected millions of dollars in sales tax in the 3rd District. I’ve paid millions of dollars in property taxes in the 3rd District and employment taxes in the 3rd District.”
Thomas was critical of Pence’s performance in office. “It’s been a disaster for the last three years. Things just aren’t happening, and if we don’t get something done soon, it’s just going to get worse,” he said.
Thomas said the religious freedom law that the General Assembly passed this year and later revised because of fears that it would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians “is part of it, there’s no question about that.”
He admonished the state government for failing to adequately tackle methamphetamine abuse, letting the property tax system be manipulated by suburban cities and overseeing “arguably one of the worst school environments in the 50 states.”
Meanwhile, Scott Wise of Columbia City said in a statement that he will run for the Republican nomination to represent the 3rd District in the U.S. House. Wise is the fourth GOP candidate to announce in the district since Monday, joining state Sens. Jim Banks of Columbia City and Liz Brown of Fort Wayne and former Wisconsin state Sen. Pam Galloway of Warsaw.
Third-term Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, announced Saturday that he will run for an open U.S. Senate seat next year.
Wise, 47, a former member of the Whitley County Council, ran for the 3rd District seat as a Republican in 2008 and as the Libertarian Party candidate in 2010 and 2014, receiving 4 percent of the vote in both races as a Libertarian.
Wise said in his statement that federal officials since the 1990s have “dramatically expanded the size and scope of government, enslaved our children to debt, and taken irresponsible government to a new level.” He said electing an “establishment” Republican in the 3rd District “changes nothing.”