FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Former U.S. Rep. Mark Souder wrote in a message to two northern Indiana Republicans that state Sen. Marlin Stutzman is likely the best qualified candidate to take his place.
The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reports that the message sent on Facebook to Noble County's GOP chairman and the county prosecutor predicts that Stutzman will win the caucus. Souder confirmed to the newspaper that he sent the message and that he considers it private. Souder described the message as "mostly pro-Marlin Stutzman," but would not comment further.
"Though I am frustrated at Marlin (more in a minute), he's probably best qualified and basically a very good man for all his over aggressive ambition," Souder wrote in the message.
Souder's message seems to offer contradictory statements about the affair with an aide that led him to resign. In one paragraph, he says Stutzman knew nothing of the affair and therefore couldn't have tipped off the media. In another, he mentions that Stutzman or a political consulting firm leaked word of the affair to Fox News after getting information from the staffer's husband, a Kosciusko County commissioner.
Stutzman has said that he did not know that rumors of the affair were true until Souder admitted it when he resigned last month. Stutzman has said his team did not spread word of the affair and has called any suggestion that his campaign had a role a "smear tactic."
The newspaper could not reach Stutzman for comment Monday. The Associated Press left a message seeking comment Tuesday with Stutzman's campaign.
Souder's message predicts that Stutzman will win the caucus, although it says newscaster Ryan Elijah is pressing him. Souder called Fort Wayne City Councilwoman Liz Brown a sleeper pick, but doubted she would get 10 percent of the early vote.
Other GOP hopefuls include state Reps. Wes Culver of Goshen and Randy Borror of Fort Wayne.
Republicans will meet Saturday in Columbia City to pick a candidate for the special election and for the November general election.
Noble County GOP chairman Randall Kirkpatrick and Noble County prosecutor Stave Clouse both confirmed to The Journal Gazette they had received the message from Souder via Facebook. They sent the message to other Republican officials across northeast Indiana, saying it was important to release it so voters in the caucus Saturday have all the information before they choose a candidate to replace Souder on the ballot.
Democratic precinct committeemen in the northeastern Indiana district meet June 17 in Fort Wayne to pick a candidate for a special election to fill the rest of Souder's term. Democrat Tom Hayhurst is already on the ballot for the general election.
Both elections are Nov. 2.