It is all over and the votes are coming in. Dan Coats, John Hostettler, Marlin Stutzman, Richard Behney, and Don Bates Jr. are in the home stretch, have fought a spirited primary battle against each other.
The most recent poll shows a continuation of the trend we have seen all along, which spells good news for Coats, who had a solid lead with 36 percent of the vote. His closest competitor was Hostettler, who was 12 points behind with 24 percent. Stutzman was in a distant third at 18 percent. Of course, a lot could have changed since this late-April poll with 13 percent of voters undecided – enough to close the gap between Hostettler and Coats.
Like many Hoosiers, I did not make my final pick until very recently. A couple of weeks ago at the Tea Party Debate, I had a chance to question the leading candidates one-on-one and got several other questions answered during the debate itself. Shortly thereafter I made my picks.
To follow is a candidate summary with my overall thoughts. They are listed in reverse order, with my least favorite coming first and my pick for the win coming last.
Richard Behney – Mr. Bumper-Sticker Slogan
Behney has some good one-liners and is a legitimate, true conservative. He has a passion that cannot be disputed and you get a sense that he believes, in his core, the beliefs he espouses.
That being said, he is not a politician. Behney would probably think that this is a continuation of the complements section, considering how he begrudges the term ‘politician.’ Unfortunately, the diplomatic skills that allow someone to be an effective politician are completely missing in Behney.
It is one thing to say ‘I won’t compromise’ but since you are only one of 100 in the senate, you have to be able to negotiate in a manner that will draw people over to your side.
Behney lacks those communication skills and as such would end up being a poor advocate for his ideas and beliefs and would fail his constituents. He needs to either learn to embrace some of the skills of a politicians, or go back to his day job.
One final note; Behney calls himself the “Tea Party Candidate.” For what it is worth, Behney has not been involved in the Indianapolis Tea Party for some time. He did not help organize, nor did he even attend our Tax Day Freedom Rally, The Tea Party does not endorse candidates officially, and unofficially our organizers volunteer for the candidates they want to win, and I would be wiling to bet that Behney gets maybe 10% of their support.
Labeling himself as he did was selfish and irresponsible, and threatens to damage the credibility of the organization he helped create when he registers single digit numbers in the primary.
John Hostettler – Ron Paul Light
There are a lot of things to like about Hostettler. He understands the way government works, he is sound on fiscal policy, he is strong on protecting life and very strong on the second amendment.
During the debates, he was not swayed by the populist rhetoric calling for term limits (a terrible idea that takes power away FROM the people) or a balanced budget amendment (sounds good until you look into the unintended consequences).
Hostettler is undoubtedly a man of principle and conviction. He knows how the system works and would make it work for Hoosiers.
Unfortunately, he is incredibly weak on foreign policy. Well, I should not say it like that. If you supported Ron Paul, then Hostettler is your man.
John Hostettler believes that Saddam Hussein did not pose a significant threat and that the world is not safer without him. He thinks that Iran is not crazy enough to ever use a nuke (and did not address the idea that they could simply give one to a non-state actor). He disputed the danger of the chemical weapons that we recovered in Iraq because they could not have been fired safely, and he downplayed the threat of them being used in a suicide attack against Americans.
These are all things he said to me personally and unequivocally. If you agree with those assessments, then read no more. Hostettler is your man.
Many of us, however, know that those foreign policy stances are dangerous.
Saddam Hussein was funding terrorism and making a mockery of the weapons inspections, not to mention he was seeking new means to produce chemical weapons.
Iran is a regime lead by murders who would gladly hand over a nuke to Hezbollah or some other such rogue group and laugh joyfully while thousands of Americans die in the streets.
The “duck and cover” isolationist foreign policy does not work. Making excuses for our enemies actions and pretending that we can just stay out of it and we won’t be affected is either laziness, cowardice or ignorance. Similar thought processes led to WWII, where we ignored the gathering storm ‘way over in Europe,’ and to 9/11, where an incompetent leader ignored attack after attack on Americans and American interests.
Almost perfect but with a fatal flaw, I could not support Hostettler, and I actually considered putting him under Behney.
Don Bates Jr. – The Self-Hating Politician
Don Bates was a rockstar during many of the debates. He had the quickest tongue, the sharpest wit and some of the most effectively conceptualized answers of anyone in the race. Bates, if he desires, will have a future in conservative politics.
That is, if he gets over the anti-politician rhetoric. Like Behney, Bates must embrace the skills that make a politician effective, skills that Bates was either born with or has worked hard to hone.
Bates should set his sights a little lower and earn some experience at smaller levels of government. As long as he does not lose his vision or get his hands too dirty, he will make it in the future.
He is just not ready now.
Marlin Stutzman – The Work in Progress
Marlin Stutzman decided to run for the senate seat back when he was facing the daunting task of challenging Evan Bayh in the general election. He is a strong, true conservative who has a good (but not spotless) history serving Indiana in the state senate. When Stutzman is talking about issues that he is comfortable with at the level that he is familiar with, he is an articulate advocate who is on his game.
However, there are clearly some issues that he is not as well versed in as guys like Hostettler and Coats. When Stutzman talks about foreign policy or bigger-picture taxes and spending, his confidence and smoothness dwindles and he often times fails to make his point.
This is not a style critique, but whoever Indiana sends to Washington must not only vote the way we want him to, but he must serve as a proactive advocate on our behalf. While I like Stutzman on a personal level and I think he can certainly learn and improve with experience, I think his rookie status would limit his ability to serve as an advocate for the people of Indiana, at least at first.
If he won, he would probably be firing on all cylinders by the time he ran for reelection. But we need a battle hardened man who can hit the ground running and start fighting immediately. It was something I struggled with, but in the end I decided that I would not support Marlin Stutzman during this primary.
Dan Coats – Graduate of the School of Hard Knocks
When Dan Coats entered the race, I was a critic. Who is this washed-up, old RINO that the national republicans are importing into Indiana to run for senate? I heard about the votes for the assault weapons ban and for Ginsburg’s nomination and I was convinced that he was the WRONG man for the job.
Then I did some research and watched some debates. While my view of Coats improved, I was still not convinced. Until I got the chance to challenge him personally about some of my reservations. His answers won me over.
Regarding the Assault Weapons Ban, a measure that Clinton pushed for which banned cosmetic features on certain rifles and labeled them “assault weapons.” This ban was ridiculous and did little except drive up the prices of certain rifles favored by enthusiasts and collectors. It was passed in an overwhelming vote in an omnibus crime bill, but Dan Coats was one of 10 republicans who voted to keep the ban in the omnibus bill.
I asked Coats about it. He said that law enforcement leaders were telling him that this measure would help and that they needed this measure to fight violent crime. Coats, who did not want to presume to know more about enforcing laws than the men and women on the front lines of crime, voted for the measure because he thought he was doing the right thing.
He said that he was ultimately ok supporting the ban because it included an expiration date. Once it expired we could reevaluate it and if it was no longer needed it could sunset. Coats reiterated that he did what he thought was right and that he would not support such measures again in the future. In other words, he learned from his mistake.
The vote to confirm Ginsburg is an easier topic to tackle. Coats explained that at the time, there was a gentleman’s agreement of sorts between republicans and democrats to give Supreme Court nominees a fairly pain-free path to the court once they were nominated.
Coats said that the agreement was not his idea, but that he went along with it, as did almost every other republican. Coats again said he was wrong, plain and simple. The democrats abandoned the agreement when it was convenient for them to do so and added insult to the injury of supporting such a liberal nominee.
Coats said point-blank that he would not support those that type of nominee in the future. He said that men like Justice Alito (whom Coats helped during the confirmation process) and Chief Justice Roberts were the prototypes for the ideal Supreme Court nominees. He said that he would not have supported Soto-Mayor.
Aside from those issues, Coats has a history of conservative values. He is strong on defending life and understands the need for reduced spending, not increased taxes. I disagree with him on balanced budget amendment proposals and on term limits, but in the big scheme of things those are less important.
Most importantly, for me anyway, is that Coats understand the threats posed by Iran, realizes the importance of standing with Israel and has a wealth of foreign policy experience that he can draw upon to serve us in the senate.
Dan Coats is not perfect. He is a man who has learned from his mistakes and is now wiser for them. He is a man who will fight for the people of Indiana and for America against the agenda’s of the left that seek to destroy us.
And he is the man that I am going to vote for later today.
The Bottom Line
I know that many of you are going to disagree with my assessments, but I hope that you find them fair. I tried to follow Reagan’s commandment and ‘do not harm,’ and truly we had a generally great bunch of guys contending for our support against the Pelosi rubber stamp that is Brad Ellsworth.
It is important that, after such a spirited campaign, we unite behind the conservative candidate in the race this November and defeat Ellsworth. I saw many dedicated, smart and hard working people in the trenches for their various candidates in this primary. I would be honored to work with any of you and motivated to fight for whichever candidate wins. If we join forces this summer, we cannot be beaten this fall.
Well, I have to go cast me vote for Dan Coats!
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