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Three Republicans are vying for the chance to unseat Mrvan – Chicago Tribune

Vaseline 2 months ago

Three Lake County Republicans want to be the party’s answer to longstanding Democratic control of Indiana’s First Congressional District.

Randy Niemeyer, chairman of the Lake County Republican Party and current 7th District councilman; Mark Leyva, who had been seeking the nomination since 2010; and newcomer Ben Ruiz, who calls himself an “Ultra MAGA” Republican, are seeking the party’s nomination in May for a chance to unseat incumbent Congressman Frank Mrvan, a Democrat.

Mrvan is unopposed in the Democratic Primary. The 1st Congressional District has been under Democratic control since 1931.

Randy Niemeyer, a Republican, is running for the Seventh District seat on the Lake County Council.  -Original credit: Photo courtesy of Randy Niemeyer

Photo courtesy of Randy Niemeyer / HANDOUT

Lake County Republican councilman Randy Niemeyer is running in the primary for the party’s nomination for the 1st Congressional District. (Photo courtesy of Randy Niemeyer)

Niemeyer, who has the backing of the national party, said he’s happy to see a field of candidates for the spot, calling it part of the great American process. He says his experience in local government and as a small business owner makes him the right choice for the job.

Challengers Leyva and Ruiz call Niemeyer an establishment Republican politician who is part of the problem and say he is not Republican enough.

“I would say my credentials in local government speak for themselves. I’m happy to be part of the party,” Niemeyer said, adding that he has done more work to build the Republican Party than both of them combined.

“I am proud of the work we have done in Lake County. I want to make sure we give voters good choices… If people aren’t challenged, it doesn’t create the accountability that our system needs,” Niemeyer said.

He said his perspective as a small business owner in the District is one he believes resonates with people, who are forced to make difficult decisions every day with sometimes small and non-existent margins.

“That experience is something that is familiar to a lot of people in our district… we have to go to work every day and make something out of nothing,” Niemeyer said.

He also touted his 16 years of experience in local government, starting as a city councilman in Cedar Lake, where he said the city borrowed from the sewer company to make ends meet. Niemeyer said when he left town, all the accounts had cash balances and did not have to wait for taxes to pay the bills.

Republican Mark Leyva is running for his party's nomination in the District 1 race for the U.S. House of Representatives.  (Photo courtesy of Mark Leyva)
Republican Mark Leyva is running for his party’s nomination in the District 1 race for the U.S. House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Mark Leyva)

Now, as a member of the Lake County Council, he is part of managing a large budget that requires a lot of teamwork, with people from both sides of the aisle bringing multiple perspectives.

“There is a diversity of perspectives there from every department of government. It is my job as a member of the budget and legislative bodies to find those connecting points,” Niemeyer said.

“I think these relationships within government are what we need at every level to succeed. We can disagree about things. We should not be obnoxious,” he said.

Leyva said he’s running for office “more than I want to say.”

He first decided to run for a seat in 2010 as a joke because no one else would run against former Congressman Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville. Without a lot of money behind them, Leyva said candidates should compete regularly to build brand awareness.

“You either have money and have to use it wisely to get that brand awareness, or you have to advocate for it over and over again to get it. Hopefully I did that,” Leyva said.

“All I can tell you is that I worked as hard as I’ve ever worked and I did the most I could ever do. The rest is pretty much in God’s hands.”

Republican Ben Ruiz is running for his party's nomination for the District 1 race for the U.S. House of Representatives.  (Photo courtesy of Ben Ruiz)
Republican Ben Ruiz is running for his party’s nomination for the District 1 race for the U.S. House of Representatives. (Photo courtesy of Ben Ruiz)

Leyva compares the battle to the biblical battle between David and Goliath.

“This year is different. Although they think they have the chosen one with a lot of money, that is not the case,” Leyva said.

“The reason I want to take this position is because I want to prove that an average working man like me… can actually do it. Both sides want to say they have open arms and want you there, but they want a lot of worker bees. Whatever you do, do not run for office unless you ask for their blessing, and that is wrong,” Leyva said.

Leyva denounced Neimeyer who ran for office while serving as the party’s provincial chairman. He said it gives him an unfair advantage, including access to data centers he doesn’t have.

Ruiz is also a small business owner and considers himself an anti-establishment candidate, like Leyva.

“One of the reasons I decided to run for office is because I am a very strong supporter of President (Donald) Trump because his America First policies benefited every American,” Ruiz said. He said he’s running on the same “Make America First” platform.

He said the way to drain the swamp in Washington DC lies at the local and state level. He said the party will continue to choose its preferred candidate.

“We need to start putting our American culture first. I wasn’t singled out by the establishment, that’s for sure. They chose to go with their preferred candidate. They are able to control their candidate,” Ruiz said.

He strives for more transparency and accountability and criticizes politicians who become millionaires as soon as they are elected.

Ruiz said he homeschools his children because he doesn’t like to see “left-wing ideologies like social justice and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusivity) play out.”

“It encourages more hateful behavior from other people who are not from their diverse backgrounds,” Ruiz said. He said education should focus on teaching history so that history does not repeat itself.

Elections 2020 and January 6, 2021

The Post-Tribune asked the candidates for their thoughts on some of the same questions.

When asked if he believed the 2020 election was fair, Neimeyer said yes.

“I believe the 2020 election was fair. That President Biden was elected,” Neimeyer said there is no need to look beyond where we sit today with the nation on the eve of WWIII, open borders, inflation and the economy, higher credit card debt.

Niemeyer said if he serves in Congress in January 2025, he would vote to certify the election regardless of who the successful candidate is.

Leyva disagreed. He said the election was not fair based on the information and data available.

“I believe it wasn’t fair because of … the absentee ballots and the race in Wisconsin …,” Leyva said. If he is in power in January, it would not be his job to certify the election, but he would do so “as long as there is no voter fraud.”

Ruiz said he “absolutely” did not believe the 2020 election was fair.

“I think all the compelling evidence has shown that,” Ruiz said. He called the current criminal proceedings against former President Trump election interference and litigation. If he served in Congress, he said he would vote to certify the election.

When asked about those convicted of crimes related to the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol, Niemeyer said he believes “people are innocent until proven guilty. The people who committed crimes on January 6 were tried in court and found guilty by a jury of their peers. They are guilty and must constitutionally serve the sentence for their crimes.”

Leyva, on the other hand, said he did not believe the January 6 suspects were rightly found guilty of their crimes.

“The videos turned out to be different,” Leyva said, claiming there was evidence showing there were 50 FBI agents who incited the violence and that Capitol Police opened the doors to invite the crowd inside.

The January 6 House Investigating Committee rejected claims that the FBI incited the violence. A June Senate Judiciary Committee report found that the FBI failed to adequately review intelligence information received before Jan. 6.

The Justice Department has charged more than 1,200 people for their role in the attacks and more than 700 of these individuals have been found guilty. PolitiFact and other news organizations have repeatedly refuted the baseless theory that federal agents incited the violence, finding no evidence to support the claim, the site said.

“They are political prisoners,” Ruiz said.


Niemeyer did not reveal his position on abortion, saying only that the Supreme Court made clear in the June 2022 ruling Dobbs decides that abortion is a state legislative issue. Indiana was the first state to pass a near-total abortion ban after the decision was handed down.

He said he supports access to in vitro fertilization. The legality of the procedure was called into question in February when the Alabama Supreme Court controversially ruled that frozen embryos are people. Although the process resumed at some IVF clinics after emergency legislation was passed in the state, the law did not address the personality question at the heart of the court decision.

“I think it is important to allow people who cannot conceive naturally to start a natural family. I support IVF. I think we need to do everything we can in our states to support families,” Niemeyer said.

Leyva describes herself as “100% pro-life. Yes, I think abortion should be banned.”

He said the issue is a matter of states’ rights and does not expect the vote to fall to federal lawmakers. He said he would also support access to IVF, but admitted he would need more information about the impact of the procedure on fertilized embryos left after the process.

Ruiz also called the issue of abortion rights an issue that should be left to the states. On a personal level, he said he is against abortion. He would support IVF, because he believes that no embryos are destroyed unnecessarily.

“I can proudly say that I am pro-life. No other human being deserves to take another person’s life. That’s not healthcare. It’s just not… Women don’t have abortions because it’s a life-saving procedure. They do it for whatever purpose during a pregnancy and just want the pregnancy to be terminated,” Ruiz said.

An Associated Press investigation found that complaints doubled after Dobbs from women seeking treatment for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies who were turned away from hospitals, especially in states with abortion bans. Federal law requires hospitals to treat or stabilize patients in active labor.

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