A long line of interested Indiana Republicans began to form Tuesday after Republican Rep. Mark Souder acknowledged an affair with a part-time aide and announced he will resign his seat at the end of the week.
Sources said state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, who finished a respectable second to former Sen. Dan Coats in the GOP Senate primary two weeks ago, plans to seek the seat. Even before news broke of Souder's affair, Stutzman's backers had been promoting him as a successor to Souder as early as 2012.
"Stutzman is in the pole position," said Matt Hoskins, an aide to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who helped Stutzman raise money for his Senate campaign as the chairman of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
Stutzman said in a statement that he has "been contacted by numerous people and media sources about our intentions" and "will be making an official statement regarding our decision on this situation in the next few days."
State Rep. Randy Borror, who has represented part of the Fort Wayne area for a decade, said Tuesday that he would seek the GOP nod.
Also likely to run are auto dealer Bob Thomas and lawyer Phil Troyer, who combined to hold Souder to less than a majority of the vote in the May 4 primary.
Thomas spent heavily from his own pockets and traded attacks with Souder en route to winning 35 percent of the vote to the Congressman's 48 percent.
Terry Hively, who managed Troyer's campaign, said Troyer would seek the seat after winning 16 percent of the primary vote.
Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) isn't required under Indiana law to call a special election, but he is expected to do so. A special election could be held no earlier than late July, but within the next 30 days Republican and Democratic precinct committeemen in the district will hold caucuses to choose nominees to run in that race.
Whomever the Republicans choose presumably would also be tapped in by a second caucus of GOP officials to replace Souder as the Republican nominee. Souder has until July 15 to withdraw from the race.
Republicans are heavily favored to hold the Fort Wayne-based 3rd district, which is one of the most strongly conservative districts in the Midwest.
"Democrats cannot credibly claim that they pose a threat to our ability to keep this seat in the Republican column," said Tom Erickson, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. Still, Democrats say they have a viable candidate in Tom Hayhurst, a physician and former Fort Wayne councilman who easily won the Democratic primary two weeks ago. He would be tapped to run as the Democratic nominee in a special election.
Hayhurst, who won 46 percent of the vote against Souder in 2006, had $223,000 in his campaign account as of mid-April.
"He's not running against any particular candidate. He's running to change Congress and get something fresh there, something new," said Jason Kingsbury, Hayhurst's campaign manager.