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Tuesday, March 15, 2016 8:31 pm

Forum takes on tirade tones

Brian Francisco | Washington editor

Four Republican congressional candidates for Indiana’s 3rd Congressional District used the 228th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution to hammer at a Democratic president and others whom they claim are dismantling the document.

Each candidate spoke Wed­­nesday about a section of the Constitution during an Allen County Tea Party forum that attracted about 75 people to IPFW’s Neff Hall.

For three of the candidates, what began as a history lesson turned into a condemnation of liberals, progressives and President Barack Obama.

Pam Galloway of Warsaw complained about gun control efforts she labeled "leftist political attacks" on the Second Amendment. She said that although terrorist bombings are blamed on people, many people attribute mass shootings to guns.

"Using this leftist logic, spoons will be responsible for obesity, cars will be responsible for drunk driving, and Louisville Sluggers will be responsible for bludgeoning deaths," said Galloway, a former state senator in Wisconsin who is an NRA-certified pistol instructor.

State Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne contended that states’ rights under the 10th Amendment have suffered "a trampling" during Obama’s two administrations. She cited environmental regulations and education mandates as examples of "an abuse of power at the federal level."

"What we’ve seen is creep and overreach where the states are merely the beggars at the feet of the federal government, asking, ‘Please, may we have home rule. Please, may we the people govern ourselves,’?" Brown said.

State Sen. Jim Banks of Columbia City lamented what he sees as Obama’s violations of Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution that spells out a president’s authority.

"For the last 61/2 years, our nation has been led by a president who repeatedly, unabashedly and without hesitation has demonstrated contempt for the constitutional limits of power," Banks said. "Repeatedly, President Obama has refused to enforce laws because he doesn’t simply agree with them."

Banks’ examples included Obama’s immigration policies, executive changes to the Affordable Care Act, the renaming of Alaska’s Mount McKinley to Mount Denali and the Iran nuclear deal that Banks said should have been a treaty subject to Senate approval.

Only Scott Wise of Columbia City, whose topic was free-speech rights, failed to identify ways Obama has breached the First Amendment. He said the amendment’s biggest challenge is political correctness.

Wise then said he would exercise his free speech and launched into a wide-ranging tirade against the entire federal government, Republicans included, for spending lavishly and being more concerned with election campaign contributions than serving constituents. 

"Our elections are, by and large, a rigged game. Connected politicians have access to unlimited financing, and the beneficiaries of that money, paid media, tell the voters who is electable," said Wise, who is running for Congress for the fourth time and without a fundraising organization.

Wise, Banks, Brown and Galloway seek to replace Republican Rep. Marlin Stutzman as northeast Indiana’s representative in the U.S. House. Stutzman is running for an open U.S. Senate seat in the 2016 elections. 

A fourth GOP candidate for Stutzman’s 3rd District seat, Kosciusko farm operator Kip Tom, was invited to take part in Wednesday’s forum but declined because of a previously scheduled commitment, according to a tea party organizer. Tom confirmed by text message that he had other commitments.

The forum moderator three times misidentified Banks, Brown, Galloway and Wise as candidates to replace Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., despite be­ing corrected by the audience. 

Two Democrats are also in the running for the House seat: Huntington business owner Todd ­Nightenhelser and Fort Wayne resident Tommy Schrader.

Also Thursday, the political action committee for the fiscally conservative Club for Growth endorsed Banks. He is just the seventh federal candidate, and the first House candidate, to be endorsed by the Washington advocacy group in the 2016 cycle. The club endorsed Stutzman in late July.

Club President David McIntosh, a former Indiana congressman who grew up in Kendallville, said in a statement that Banks "is a top conservative leader for economic freedom in the Indiana legislature. He was at the forefront of the right-to-work fight and led in the battle to end the state’s death tax. The Club’s PAC believes Jim Banks would be a strong voice in Congress for lower taxes, less spending, and smaller government."