Instead of campaigning for Congress on Election Day, Justin Kuhnle went to his job as a social services case worker. He said he had meetings with four clients in two cities.
“The individuals I serve, they come first, because I'm a case manager, and that's where my passion's at,” Kuhnle said Tuesday afternoon. The congressional campaign “is taking it to the next level, as far as to care for everybody,” he said.
It looked iffy throughout the evening as to whether his campaign would even continue. In the end, the Kendallville resident emerged as the winner of a tight three-way Democratic primary.
Kuhnle topped perennial candidate Tommy Schrader of Fort Wayne by 93 votes out of 8,203 cast in the 12-county 3rd District. Kuhnle received 35 percent of the ballots and Schrader 34 percent. Jim Redmond of Auburn had 31 percent, 308 ballots behind the leader.
Asked whether the margin felt too close for comfort, Kuhnle, 33, said “a little bit. Like I tell people, every vote counts.”
Kuhnle beat the unemployed Schrader in Allen County by 202 votes, but Schrader won seven counties to Kuhnle's three and Redmond's two.
Schrader had finished second and Kuhnle fourth in the 2012 Democratic primary won by Kevin Boyd.
Stutzman gets 82 % of the the GOP vote
The winner's prize Tuesday is the chance to face two-term Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Republican voters nominated the LaGrange County farmer by a huge margin, giving him 82 percent of about 58,900 votes cast. Mark Baringer of Fort Wayne received 9.4 percent and Jim Mahoney of Huntington got 8.5 percent.
“I think it's a reflection of the job I've been trying to do in Washington, and people have appreciated that, and I don't take that lightly at all,” Stutzman, 37, said in a telephone interview. “We're going to continue to do the same things, continue to work hard just doing the job.
“The policy, if you do that right, the political side will take care of itself,” he said.
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Stutzman was in Washington on Tuesday as Congress is in session this week.
Stutzman has raised more than $860,000 in campaign contributions during the current election cycle. Kuhnle had collected $714 through the end of March. None of the other primary-election candidates has filed campaign finance reports.
In other Indiana congressional districts:
•Democratic Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-1st, and Republican Mark Leyva were nominated in the northwest 1st District.
•Republican Jackie Walorski and Democrat Joe Bock were nominated in the north-central 2nd District.
•Republican Rep. Todd Rokita and Democrat John Dale were nominated in the west-central 4th District.
•Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who grew up in Fort Wayne, and Democrat Shawn Denney were nominated in the central 5th District.
•Republican Rep. Luke Messer and Democrat Susan Heitzman were nominated in the eastern 6th District.
•Democratic Rep. André Carson and Republican Catherine Ping were nominated in the 7th District in Indianapolis.
•Republican Rep. Larry Bucshon and Democrat Tom Spangler were nominated in the southwest 8th District.
•Republican Rep. Todd Young and Democrat Bill Bailey were nominated in the southern 9th District.