Councilman Niemeyer announces Congress bid

October 1, 2023




With the House passing a last-minute stop gap measure to avoid a government shutdown, one high-profile local Republican says he wants a chance to be part of the process.

Randy Niemeyer, 37, chairman of Lake County’s Republican Party, announced Sunday he will be running for his party’s nomination in May for the 1st Congressional District, mounting a challenge against two-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan, D-Highland.

Niemeyer, who also serves as the District 7 Lake County councilman, said he was not necessarily seeking a higher office but the opportunity presented itself while he was in talks with state and federal Republican leaders about fielding a candidate for the 1st Congressional District after it became clear Jennifer-Ruth Green was not going to run again.

Green, a political newcomer, mounted a challenge against Mrvan in 2022. She was backed by an influx of millions of dollars in federal party and PAC spending in what was the most expensive race for the seat in its history. About $15 million was spent on the race, according to Federal Election Commission records. The extra spending drew Green closer than past Republican candidates as she came within a 5.6% margin of victory for the seat, which Democrats have held since 1932.

Niemeyer said he supported Green and enjoyed her campaign.

“I am thankful for what she did in last year’s campaign. It’s really showing voters of the 1st District you really can vote for a Republican. We have more in common a lot of times than our representatives let us know,” Niemeyer said.

As a candidate, Niemeyer comes with his own political resume and a family name in politics. Prior to serving on the county council, Niemeyer was elected to three terms on the Cedar Lake Town Council, serving 10 years as its president.

The Niemeyer name has long ties to Indiana and Lake County politics. Former Lake County Councilman and current State Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, is a second cousin and the late Lake County Commissioner and State Sen. Ernie Niemeyer was his great uncle. Randy Niemeyer plans to announce his candidacy Sunday at the Niemeyer Auction House in Lowell, which his owned by Rick Niemeyer. The site has served as multiple campaign stops including by former Vice President Mike Pence.

He acknowledged the amount of money spent on Green’s race was large because she was a relative unknown in the region.

“Name recognition is something that is you don’t have it, it takes a lot of money to get it our there and gain it,” Niemeyer said.

He expects the first district to be a race to which both the Democratic and Republican parties pay a lot of attention and spend a lot of money. Republicans want to flip the seat that has been trending in their direction after 90 years of Democratic control. Republicans have discounted the seat for so long, they not ever felt competitive,

Jim Wieser, chairman of the Lake County Democratic Central Committee, declined to comment.

The Mrvan campaign, when reached prior to the midnight deadline to avert a shutdown, provided a statement about Niemeyer’s planned announcement

“It is par for course that a MAGA Republican candidate for Congress would intentionally select a day that highlights the dysfunction of the Republican-controlled House to announce, once again, the MAGA Republican priority is to favor politics over governing. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of Republican primary voters to determine their nominees for the general election in 2024.

“Congressman Mrvan is working every day in a collaborative and bipartisan fashion to continue delivering for the constituents of Indiana’s First Congressional District, including restoring women’s freedom to access reproductive health care, supporting organized labor and historic investments in infrastructure that benefit our great local steel industry, reducing seniors’ cost of prescription drugs, and providing veterans with expanded health care access,” the statement read.

Around 2 p.m. Saturday, the House passed a stopgap funding measure, which includes disaster relief, that is expected to keep the government funded for 45 days, pending approval by the Senate.

Niemeyer said the influx of new people into the 1st District, particularly from Illinois, seem to be voting a little more conservative and putting the seat in play for the GOP.

“Republicans never really had a viable shot,” Niemeyer said. “There is a legitimate opportunity to win this.”

The 1st District is a traditionally blue-collar district where people may have for generations lived their lives in a conservative manner but voted Democratic, he said.

“The younger generation is breaking that tradition and voting for people who may not be from the party of their parents and more closely represent who they are,” he continued.

Niemeyer said he can bring a working-class perspective to the office due to his unique experience.

“I don’t think a lot of folks in Washington have 3 million miles experience behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler like I do,” Niemeyer said.

But first, he has to make it through the May primary. Niemeyer said he is not yet aware of any other Republican who wants to run for the office but would welcome all challengers in May.

“I hope that anyone interested and inspired to serve follows through on that. I would never discourage a person from signing up because I am a better-known name. The process needs a heck of a lot more good people to participate,” Niemeyer said. “It’s about giving the voters a choice.”

Niemeyer says he would fit in with the hard-working conservative folks in his district who “Just want to see their people work, and that includes their federal government.”

He will be looking for opportunities to make some of the changes his party has requested when it comes to spending and budgeting.

He says he is not a fan of the all-or-nothing approach, which has contributed to government shutdowns in recent years. While he can understand some of his Republican colleagues taking a stance on things, Niemeyer says it is also “really darn important to take steps toward reaching our goal instead of taking a huge swing and instead ultimately missing all of them. Take those victories and go for that.”

“I don’t think shutting down the people’s government is the answer. We should be doing the work of the people which includes the ability to communicate and work toward common goals,” Niemeyer said, adding he feels like Speaker Kevin McCarthy is looking to work in that direction and “probably a handful don’t want to work in that direction.”

“At the end of the day this is the people’s government. It can’t be held hostage by either party,” Niemeyer said.

Many government workers, like many Americans in general, live paycheck to paycheck. Furloughs and working without pay is a tough thing to ask, he said.

Niemeyer said when he looks at this own district, the people want him to fight for commonsense government and solutions to problems and to keep their government working, just like they do.

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