Two area House incumbents were knocked out of their seats Tuesday by conservative opponents relying on grass-roots campaigns, and a third incumbent squeaked out a tight win.
Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, lost the House District 22 Republican nomination to Curt Nisly. The district covers parts of Kosciusko and Elkhart counties. Kubacki conceded after she lost Kosciusko by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent. Elkhart numbers still weren’t final but couldn’t change the outcome.
Nisly will face Democrat David Kolbe – a Warsaw lawyer and former prosecutor – in the general election.
Meanwhile, Rep. Kathy Heuer, R-Columbia City, lost the House District 83 Republican nomination to Christopher Judy, who received 57 percent of the vote to 43 percent. The district covers parts of Allen and Whitley counties.
Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, held off attorney Michael Barranda by just 250 votes, 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent in House District 84, which covers large parts of Fort Wayne.
The incumbent losses are further indication of the growing split in the Republican Party. Both Judy and Nisly have ties to the tea party.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said the area of the state is very conservative, and Kubacki and Heuer were attacked for their stances on Common Core standards, regulations for some church-run day cares and gay marriage.
Both women voted to remove a second sentence regarding civil unions from the amendment. Then they voted against the final version in the House.
It still passed the General Assembly, but because the language was changed, the earliest the public can vote on it is 2016 instead of this November.
Long said if they had supported the altered version of the ban it might have neutralized the opposition.
It’s a bummer, Kubacki said. I was bombarded on all sides.
But Kubacki said she wouldn’t have done anything different.
I felt I was on the right side of those issues, Kubacki said. I refuse to cast a vote simply to get elected. I’m proud of my service.
Kubacki, 61, was seeking a third term in the Indiana House.
I think it was the voice of Republicans in the 22nd District deciding how they want to be represented in the future, Nisly said. I am grateful but not surprised.
He has lived outside Goshen since 2007. After high school, the 41-year-old started a computer sales and service business. His wife is chair of the Elkhart County Republican Party but he also has been involved with the tea party.
After helping some other campaigns, he decided now was the time to try his hand at politics.
The race has been spirited, with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce PAC sending mailers accusing Nisly of treason. Kubacki reaped almost $30,000 in late contributions.
Nisly said he wasn’t sure what the cash would do in the end but we were very comfortable in our position.
Heuer, 66, was born and raised in Columbia City and spent about 10 years owning and running a women’s retail clothing store in Columbia City and Warsaw. Now she does volunteer work, serving on several boards of directors, in addition to being a state lawmaker. She also sought a third term.
Judy, 35, grew up in Whitley County and lives in Aboite Township. He spent seven years in the Indiana Army National Guard as a combat medic, including one tour in Iraq in 2008.
He has worked at General Motors since 2006.
Heuer also received late help in the form of large contributions – almost $30,000, including a chunk from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce PAC.
Similarly, Morris had an influx of large contributions – about $40,000 – in recent days, including cash from Hoosiers for Economic Growth and the House Republican Campaign Committee.
Morris, 38, was seeking a third full term. He is a business owner who wants to focus on jobs, especially making sure soldiers and veterans have quality jobs when they return from service.
He said he worked on two key bills in the 2014 session – business personal property tax reform and the repealing of an energy efficiency program. He was not listed as a sponsor or author on the legislation.
He supports the constitutional gay marriage ban and moving Allen County to a single county executive system with a larger county council.
Barranda, 35, grew up in Kendallville and moved to Fort Wayne after law school. He currently does civil and commercial litigation and trial law.
Morris’ comments questioning the Girl Scouts in 2012 initially drew Barranda’s attention to the seat but are not the reason he was running.
He said Morris votes along party lines and follows suit the way his caucus wants. But he has passed little legislation and doesn’t add to the discourse.
I knew it was going to be an uphill battle with a lot of money coming in and the establishment in Indianapolis standing up for him, Barranda said. I am proud of what we did and my team.
The final contested Indiana House race was House District 85, where Rep. Casey Cox, R-Fort Wayne, won easily with 50 percent of the vote. Opponents Ken Knoblauch and Denny Worman split the remaining vote.
Cox, 31, just finished his first legislative session after being appointed in a caucus to fill the remainder of Rep. Phyllis Pond’s term. She died last year.
If re-elected, he wants to work to improve the state’s safe haven law for troubled women who give birth to children they don’t want.
Knoblauch, 68, lives in Woodburn and is a lifetime Allen County resident. He spent time in the Army, teaching art and English and working in the business world.
Worman, 60, is a familiar name in the district, having run unsuccessfully against Pond for the seat four times. He has lived in Leo his whole life and currently works to bring companies to the area as a commercial real estate specialist.