By DANIEL RIORDAN
---- — SYRACUSE — A sea of orange shirts pulsed through The Back Porch restaurant at The Oakwood Inn Tuesday night.
The orange was a show of support for Curt Nisly. It also served as caution to establishment Republicans in one of the reddest states in the union: Your seat is not safe.
Two-term District 22 state Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, Syracuse, fell to political newcomer Nisly of Goshen, in Tuesday’s Republican primary. Nisly mounted a massive door-to-door campaign to introduce himself to voters and get his message of limited government and local control out.
“The number one issue for voters I talked to was the marriage amendment,” Nisly said after The Associated Press reported he defeated Kubacki. “That and guns, the Second Amendment. I had people say they would vote for me because they felt I would protect their Second Amendment rights.”
Kubacki conceded that her campaign was hurt by things like the marriage amendment as well as her vote not to halt Common Core. But she also pointed to conservative activist Eric Miller and his mission to “rile everyone up” as part of what ultimately led to her defeat.
“But I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” said Kubacki in a phone interview Tuesday night. Kubacki was traveling to Indianapolis for a board meeting with Riley’s Hospital For Children. “I was able to get the governor to sign four bills of mine this year. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of the way I served. I feel I served with principle.”
The race, as contentious as any for a state representative contest, draws to a close with Nisly garnering approximately 65 percent of the vote.
Opinion pages not only in The Goshen News but other regional publications were overrun with letters to the editor both in support and in condemnation of the two candidates. Third-party mailers attacked Kubacki for her vote against a marriage amendment referendum and support of day care reform while Nisly was called a secessionist in another.
Kurt Hochstettler, Goshen, was on hand to support his friend Nisly. Hochstettler and his wife became friends with Nisly and his wife Mary about five years ago. Both sets of parents have kids in the Fairfield school system.
“You couldn’t meet two nicer people,” Hochstettler said. “Pride in the wrong context is a sin, but in terms of how he ran this race I couldn’t be more proud of (Curt).”
Nisly won over voters in the district who had become dissatisfied with Kubacki. Pam Shepherd, Mentone, said Tuesday night at the Oakwood Inn that she was tired of Kubacki “saying one thing and doing another.”
For her it started with the Common Core issue. Then it was Kubacki’s marriage amendment vote that was the clincher for her.
“I really agree with what Curt believes in,” Shepherd said.
Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers, who previously endorsed Nisly, was on hand for what turned into Nisly’s victory party Tuesday night. Rogers said Nisly excelled at listening to people on the campaign trail and running a race with honor.
The sheriff praised Kubacki for serving her two terms with honor as well, but he believed it came down to voters trusting Nisly.
“He stood up for family values and morals and that says something,” Rogers said.
Nisly also won over Rogers, a staunch believer in limited government, with his thoughts on local control.
Now the party looks to coalesce in the interest of keeping District 22, which contains most of Kosciusko County and the southern portion of Elkhart County, red.
For Kubacki, she said there was no bad blood from the primary and that going forward she will support Nisly and the party in the general election on Nov. 4, which will pit Nisly against Democrat David Kolbe, a Warsaw attorney.
Kolbe, a former Republican who served as prosecuting attorney in Kosciusko County from 1995 to 1999, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Nisly said his campaign will function in the general election as it did in the primary.
“We set number and goals and we worked to hit them,” said Nisly. “And tonight was the final goal.”
Doug Miller is now on track to represent Indiana’s 48th district in the state’s House of Representatives.
Miller defeated Adam Bujalski and Jesse Bohannon in Tuesday’s election.
The primary became wide open after five-time incumbent Tim Neese chose not to run and instead will run for Elkhart mayor in the 2015 election.
“I’m thankful to my supporters and I think this speaks highly of Elkhart County as a conservative county with conservative values,” said Miller in a phone interview Tuesday night.
No Democrat ran in the primary. The Democratic Party has until noon June 30 to fill the vacancy.
Miller said if there is a contested race in the fall he will continue to reiterate his platform of education and making sure the county retains “the best and brightest” for the work force.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DRiordan_TGN