The candidate.

My current congresswoman is so cemented in office that if I didn’t go looking for her, I wouldn’t know who she is. It’s not like she has to break a nail to keep her seat. It took a threat to her son’s elected office — mayor of Detroit — for me to even see what she looks like; she got up at a rally and had a screechy meltdown that was a high/low moment in the last city election.

My previous congressman was/is similarly cemented in office, thanks to the usual redistricting shenanigans. But he usually has an opponent, and in election years Mark Souder can be counted on to run his usual campaign. A large component is radio ads on right-wing talk stations, with some homey instrumental track and Souder, in his Porky Pig voice, talking about his hometown of Grabill. It’s a farm town in northern Allen County that long ago reached “ruburban” status in its relationship to Fort Wayne. Lots of Amish there, lots of antique stores. Souder’s family business was and is still called a “general store.”

Of course, Souder hasn’t lived in Grabill for decades. He moved away to Washington to be an aide to Sen. Dan Coats, and when he moved back to establish residency for a congressional run, chose to live in Aboite Township, a far less quaint but more affluent bedroom community on the other side of the county, with the singular advantage of having a college-prep curriculum at the local high school, suitable for the upwardly mobile children of a congressman. (It’s also closer to the airport, essential for a commuting dad.) Still, Souder relentlessly trumpets Grabill in his ads, and never mentions Aboite. The ads are the usual values-voter crapola, in the sense values that they talk values endlessly values about values. Values values values. And sometimes the Amish, and of course their fine rural values.

This year, though, Souder has an opponent who, in a different time and with a less shamelessly gerrymandered district, might make him break a sweat. Of course he will win handily, but he’s taking no chances. He started his campaign after the May primary the olde-timey way — by sliming his opponent at every opportunity.

The campaign has been relentlessly ugly, made even more so by the nature of Souder’s opponent. He’s Dr. Tom Hayhurst, a Fort Wayne city councilman and the sort of medical professional who makes Marcus Welby look like Dr. House. My friend Frank Byrne was a partner with Hayhurst when they both practiced pulmonology in town. I remember one day, when we’d had one of our every-six-weeks-or-so lunches, and were getting ready to go back to work. Frank was stalling, which was odd, because he not only liked his work, he always had too much of it. What gives, I asked.

“Oh, I have a get-acquainted visit with a new patient. She couldn’t get along with Hayhurst and asked for a new doc. How the hell am I going to make her happy when she can’t find anything to like about Dimples?” The point of the story being, it’s a rare patient who can’t get along with Dr. Hayhurst. And yes, he has dimples.

He also has deep roots in the community (born and raised in the district where he lives), a middle-class background, a record of military service (Souder, Iraq war hawk, was a conscientious objector) and a modest lifestyle. He and his wife successfully raised two brilliant daughters, one a doctor herself. Along with Dr. Byrne, he started a pulmonology clinic at the local free clinic, so that the poor people hacking up a lung on a frigid January night can see a specialist.

With a decade on city council, he’s not a Washington expert, but not a total greenhorn, either.

So what has Souder found to smear on this sterling character? He’s “rich,” for one, and because he’s retired from practicing medicine, that can only mean the doc is looking for some yuppie hobby in his twilight years and settled on Congress, the way a CEO might decide to take up mountain-climbing in his 40s, doncha know. The ads are pathetic, mean-spirited and desperate, and are revealing Souder for the pathetic, mean-spirited and desperate soul he is. Adding to the nastiness, the National Republican Congressional Committee recently parachuted in and did a “push poll” in the district. Push polling is the when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife campaign tactic beloved by Karl Rove; no one will release the wording of the latest one, but a Hayhurst campaign worker received a call, and said it asked “whether the person would be more or less likely to vote for Hayhurst if the person knew he supported abortion and amnesty for all illegal immigrants.”

But do they work? Is Souder going to win? Of course he is. A Soviet factory worker couldn’t have a more secure job.

However, if nothing else, it’s making for a more interesting race than usual. I was stunned to see my old boss come creaking out of retirement to write a guest column for both dailies, condemning Souder. While this was hardly the voice of the oracle, it stands in rather glaring contrast to the usual amen-corner newspaper endorsements Souder has collected over the last 12 years. The letters to the editor have been relentlessly anti-Souder. And, mirabile dictu, Hayhurst has raised more money.

I’m not getting my hopes up. But I am paying attention.

Update: Mitch Harper thinks the RNCC poll doesn’t qualify as a push poll, but sounds like more of a fishing expedition to gauge hot-button issues for a late campaign rush. A push poll question would be much nastier than the question above, he believes. How comforting.

Posted at 10:07 am in Current events, Media |

30 responses to “The candidate.”

  1. brian stouder said on October 18, 2006 at 10:37 am

    Mark Souder is the poster boy for the ugly Republican. I always register as an R at primary time – although there is no real reason anymore. As another FNN (friend of nn) famously said – the Allen County Republicans would elect a giraffe, if she got onto the ballot

    If Dr Hayhurst had challenged that jerk in the Republican primary, I think he’d have beaten him there – and the Democrats would have given him the ‘Lugar pass’, no doubt.

    And if Indiana’s May presidential primary is anything more than the afterthought that almost certainly will be, I will switch over to vote for Evan Bayh.

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  2. Peter said on October 18, 2006 at 10:44 am

    Did you notice that Kilpatrick’s website uses the word congressman/congessional three times in one short sentence?

    Because I live in the People’s Republic of Chicago, I don’t get to see too many smear ads, but thanks to two congressional races and the governor’s race, they’ve arrived. What a pathetic pile of crap those ads are. I hate to think what election season in Florida is like.

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  3. colleen said on October 18, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Souder’s billboards induce eyerolls whenever I pass them. A pastoral scene with a barn and a windmill and the soft light of an afternoon in the heartland. The text is something about loving America, or American values, or something……

    What’s with the “rich guy hatred”? Republicans are just as rich as Dems….why do they pretend to be Average Joe, and that people with money are evil? I would venture that Dr. H has done more for the needy in FW by virtue of Matthew 25 than Souder has during his time as a “public servant”.

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  4. brian stouder said on October 18, 2006 at 11:38 am

    The text is something about loving America, or American values, or something……

    “Let Freedom Ring”

    I drive past one of those every day; I asked our 11 year old, who is beginning to pay attention to such things – what it tells us about what the candidate believes, and he answered that the candidate believes he’s going to win!

    The funny thing is, Souder’s whole campaign could be just as airy and light, and at least we could say “he’s still an idiot, but he’s a good-natured one”.

    But instead he has these breathy, ‘barely restrained fury’ red-meat attack-ads on the rightwing radio….and why? To make the rubble bounce higher? “Firing up the base” is one thing – but sooner or later that fire will engulf him (and here’s hoping for “sooner”)

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  5. Danny said on October 18, 2006 at 11:46 am

    I drive past one of those every day; I asked our 11 year old, who is beginning to pay attention to such things – what it tells us about what the candidate believes, and he answered that the candidate believes he’s going to win!


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  6. alex said on October 18, 2006 at 11:51 am

    In Sunday’s Journal-Gazette, Sylvia Smith wrote that Souder reconciles his Viet Nam conscientious objector status with his Iraq hawkishness this way: His church, the Apostolics, oppose killing but don’t have a problem with war.

    This, of course, is ludicrous on its face. Kind of like the self-deluding virgin who gives blowjobs and takes it up the bunghole but considers herself a good girl because her church thinks virtue is a membranous tissue.

    Evidently this man would distort the positions of his own church every bit as cynically as he does those of Dr. Hayhurst. Surprise, surprise.

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  7. mary said on October 18, 2006 at 3:05 pm

    Your suggestion of “he’s still an idiot, but he’s a good natured one,” reminded me of a slogan I suggested for a former city councilman here. “He may be a thug, but he’s our thug.”

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  8. John said on October 18, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    Mary, you are describing Buddy Cianci, ex-mayor of Providence.

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  9. Mitch Harper said on October 18, 2006 at 4:09 pm

    Nancy, I suppose that is a fair statement of what I wrote in my IM. However, I wrote about three – really four – factors.

    One is that the questions – from what is known – were not exactly of the “push poll” type.

    Two, there isn’t any evidence that the poll was conducted at any other time than on the day on which the FEC notice was filed.

    Three, there isn’t any evidence that the poll was done with an overly-broad “sample.” That is, the alleged purpose of push polls is to disseminate a negative view across a wide cross-section of the voters – not to gain an accurate poll. It is the use of the term “poll” as a pretext to give out negative – often exaggerated or inaccurate -information about a candidate.

    The fourth factor is the timing of the poll during a campaign season. A poll conducted during the summertime, for example, may ask some harsh questions, but it is not necessarily a push poll. This may be true even though the same questions, if asked during the last month of a campaign, would be objectively considered a push poll.

    You may choose to publish this comment or not. I may use it as a jumping off point for a further commentary on Fort Wayne Observed.

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  10. nancy said on October 18, 2006 at 4:24 pm

    As you may have noticed, Mitch, my comments are very lightly moderated. Thanks for the clarification.

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  11. Danny said on October 18, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    As you may have noticed, Mitch, my comments are very lightly moderated. Thanks for the clarification.

    Yeah, she practices moderation in moderation.

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  12. Barb said on October 18, 2006 at 5:16 pm

    I agree with most of what you wrote, but why are you still knocking on Aboite? I grew up in SE FW,moved out her to evil land in 1980 and love it. And yes, my kids are in the college prep curriculum, and getting a much better education than I received at Wayne HS. So, get over Aboite already! Some of us are nice folks.

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  13. mary said on October 18, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    I was describing Richard Alatorre, my former councilman here in LA. I think there are quite a few politicians who could use that slogan.

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  14. nancy said on October 18, 2006 at 5:37 pm

    Nobody’s harshing on Aboite, Barb. I only wonder why your neighbor Mark thinks his residency there should be such a big secret.

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  15. Barb said on October 18, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Actually, I did not know he lived in Aboite. I agree it is a well kept secret.

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  16. Lola said on October 18, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Most political analysts who don’t already favor Republicans– particularly Souder– as Harper does think it was a push poll. Haprer’s strongest arguement is that there is no evidence that the poll was done with an overly broad audience. There is no evidence that is wasn’t planned for one. (And doe he KNOW the audience?) A push poll will be pulled if the reaction is negative and is percieved to hurt the candidate intended to benefit from it. That is likely what happened here. Hayhurst is well liked and this group’s targeting was probably off. I know of three people who were called–and all reacted unfavorably to the negativity and vagueness of the questions. One can argue that the poll was ill timed, but that coud be due to the fact that Souder and friends don’t know how to run a campaign and because Souder is realizing he may not have the huge victory margin he needs to show how strong his position is DC in a year when many formerly strong Rs may be moved out, making room for Mark to move up in favor. I am really curious–if Harper doesn’t think this was a push pull, what they heck would he call it. I am used to CA and AZ politics–only a couple years in IN, but gee–is there a new type of poll or survey that this is part of?

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  17. brian stouder said on October 18, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    A digression – I just read that CBS newsman Christopher Glenn passed away

    One of those items that you come across and it makes you say “ohhh” out loud. I always liked his Saturday morning-during-the-cartoons “In the News” segments. And nowadays, 68 sounds like he died awfully YOUNG (liver cancer)

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  18. nancy said on October 18, 2006 at 11:48 pm

    You’ll like this, Brian.

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  19. Craig Myers said on October 19, 2006 at 12:16 am

    There are Christian denominations that do oppose participation in war by their members–Amish, Mennonites (of which the Apostolics are an off-shoot), and Brethren–but recognize the right of the government to rule by force, including the use of war. It is called the doctrine of nonresistance (as contrasted to the doctrine of pacifism, which is a relatively latecomer to the Anabaptist world).
    So it isn’t ludicrous or a distortion of his church’s teaching, as I understand nonresistance.

    Anyway, Mark is a member of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ (based in Huntington) now. I don’t know that it holds to nonresistance or pacifism, being a Wesleyan derived tradition.

    And finally, to answer Joe Weiler (who I believe led the News-Sentinel to endorse Bill Clinton on the first go round in 1992), Mark made himself available to run, and the Republican Party agreed (in the primary) to place him before the voters in the general election. No one was forced to vote for him, and no one is now. If the voters return him to Congress, then the issue of 12 years and out for him (effectively rejected by the Republicans in May) is essentially dead.

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  20. Marcia said on October 19, 2006 at 7:37 am

    I’m not related to the Michigan Kilpatricks, nor do I know anything about them.

    As a mother, though, I liked the screechy meltdown.

    “Don’t let nobody talk about y’all’s boy!”

    Preach it, sister.

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  21. brian stouder said on October 19, 2006 at 8:11 am

    Thanks, Nance – a great link. Romenesko and I apparently had exactly the same reaction

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  22. Kevin Knuth said on October 19, 2006 at 8:13 am


    I find your post quite interesting- point by point:

    1. “the questions – from what is known – were not exactly of the “push poll�? type.”. Sorry, Mitch. But when the questions keep referring to Tom Hayhurst as a “LIBERAL” that tends to lead to a push poll, especially when that poll is taken in Northeast Indiana.

    2. Points 2-4- you are right, there is no evidence. Because the RNCC will NOT release the results or the questions.


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  23. Kevin Knuth said on October 19, 2006 at 8:16 am

    Nancy, do not lose faith in Tom Hayhurst- Souder is not as secure as you might think.

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  24. Danny said on October 19, 2006 at 11:04 am

    I do not remember seeing Christopher Glenn on Saturday mornings, or ever. Was he only in the midwest market?

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  25. Lola said on October 20, 2006 at 7:10 am

    You (conveniently) miss the point, Craig. Souder campaigned on a promise that he did not believe on nor would he become a career politician so entrenched in DC politics that name recognition alone would get you elected–regardless of you success as a legislator. He has broke that plege now that he has gotten what he wanted from the false and hollow promise.
    He has been given a completely gerrymandered district and thinks that gives him the right to ingore his own committments to the citizens. You can say that–that Souder has a Republican controlled district and chose to take advantage of that despite prior promises, but you can’t say the term limit issue is dead. It isn’t. We remember.

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  26. Cathy D. said on October 20, 2006 at 8:57 am

    The first time Souder ran, we were in our livingroom (in Aboite) one evening watching TV, and the happy-Souder-family-walking-the-wooden-sidewalks-of-Grabill commercial came on. My son, a Homestead student at the time, said, Oh, there’s Nate.
    And I said, Nate? Nate who?
    Nate Souder, he replied. My friend at school.
    I thought he lived in Grabill? I said. How can he go to Homestead?
    Nah, he doesn’t live in Grabill! He lives in [addition-I-will-not-name], says my son.
    Well, huh, says me, and any respect I might have had for my future representative wafted away in the affluent Aboite air.
    His “values” are certainly suspect in my book.

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  27. Dan Turkette said on October 20, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    Hayhurst and his supporters are running around telling everyone how the empathetic doctor volunteers at the Allen County TB Clinic, when in fact he gets piad by the county. You call that values?

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  28. nancy said on October 20, 2006 at 2:56 pm

    You’ve got one Wikipedia entry — a caveat emptor source, all agree — that says “volunteer.” All the rest say “work.” I don’t see the problem here. People work, they get paid.

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  29. brian stouder said on October 22, 2006 at 9:10 pm

    Not for nothing – I would add that anytime a doctor treats a patient, the doctor assumes a legal liability. Presumeably the county doesn’t pay an extravagant amount of money (unlike – say – how well remunerated the county sherriff is!); so it can well be argued that a doctor willing to work for token fees is still working for free (or at a loss), considering the med-mal insurance premiums that come due every month

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  30. Judith Steckly said on October 28, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Dr. Hayhurst did much better in the debate Oct. 25th than Mark Souder. Souder kept blaming all evil on the Democrats who always vote the wrong way–like opposing torture of prisoners, and wanting our phone calls records (all compiled and stored who know where) to be kept from political considerations, and opposing off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf (didn’t Jeb Bush vehemently oppose this too?). Souder went on to say a representative can not be bi-partisan in Washington DC, because the “visions” of each party are opposite, and one must in the end follow the party line!!! I’m hoping Dr. Hayhurst pulls a victory, and I think it’s possible!

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