Bayh Announcement Surprises One GOP Challenger

Evan Bayh’s impending retirement from the U.S. senate came as news to at least one of his potential GOP challengers Monday.

Indiana state senator Marlin Stutzman told HUMAN EVENTS less than an hour after Bayh’s announcement that he was ‘absolutely’ surprised, especially considering Bayh’s significant ‘war chest’ of funds, and that he had been hearing Bayh had been recruiting signatures to be placed on the ballot.

Stutzman said the word on the ground in Indiana is that people are frustrated with Washington, and he had a list of reasons why: the cap and trade legislation that would severely punished the state, Congress raising the debt ceiling, and the reckless spending in Washington.

“We felt like we could beat Sen. Bayh,” Stutzman said.

Despite the fact that Bayh bowing out of the race leaves it as wide open as a PGA tournament sans Tiger Woods, Stutzman doesn’t think the race will get any more difficult for those still in the running, even though Bayh’s time in Washington provided an easily unpopular connection to what’s going on the nation’s capital.

“It’s the same issues,” Stutzman said.

Issues are also helping Stutzman define himself in the GOP primary from other contenders like ex-senator Dan Coats and former U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, who lost his seat in 2006. Stutzman said he and Coats differ on second amendment records: Stutzman has an A in 2008 voting from the NRA, while Coats during his time in office voted for the Brady bill, the assault weapons ban, and for Ruth Ginsberg as a Supreme Court justice and Sonia Sotomayor at the appellate court level.  Stutzman says his campaign differs from Hostettler because of the representative’s vote against the war in Iraq.

Stutzman characterizes himself as a 9/12 politician — he entered politics because of 9/11 and served three terms in the Indiana House of Representatives before being elected as state senator in 2008.