John Nathan Hostettler (born June 19, 1961), served in the U.S. House of Representatives from January 3, 1995 to January 3, 2007, representing the 8th District of Indiana (map). He lost his reelection bid for a seventh term to Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth in the 2006 midterm election, ending a twelve-year Congressional career.
He was a Republican candidate for the open U.S. Senate seat in the state of Indiana held by retiring Senator Evan Bayh. On December 3, 2009, Hostettler announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, but lost the primary to former Senator Dan Coats.
Hostettler (pronounced HOH-stet-luhr) was born in Evansville, as the eighth of ten children. He is of Swiss German descent. He grew up in rural Posey County near the Ohio and Wabash rivers.
After graduating from North Posey High School in 1979, he enrolled in Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science inMechanical Engineering (BSME) in 1983.
Later that year, Hostettler married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth Ann Hamman. They live in Blairsville, an unincorporated suburban community near Evansville, and have four children. He is a member of Westwood General Baptist Church in Evansville.
Prior to his service in Congress, Hostettler was a power plant performance engineer with Southern Indiana Gas & Electric Company (SIGECO, now part of Vectren); he had received his PE license during his tenure.
Hostettler became part of the 104th Congress, the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years. In subsequent years, Hostettler depended on his base of fellow social and fiscal conservatives to keep him in office. While southern Indiana has been traditionally Democratic, the 8th has always had a strong social conservative tint.
Hostettler’s campaign was distinctive in several respects. One of Hostettler’s assets in his run for Congress was his distinctive “Red Army” or “Army of Red Volunteers.” Parades and similar events would typically feature people of varying backgrounds wearing red T-shirts with white lettering that simply stated “Hostettler for Congress”. Hostettler family members were particularly involved in campaign efforts. Karen Hammonds, Hostettler’s sister, was also his office manager and a campaign coordinator. Being only one of ten children, his brothers and sisters have assisted in campaign efforts. Media has attributed this as an area of success and influence that helped Hostettler achieve six straight victories.
Hostettler signed the Contract with America, but he told an Evansville Courier & Press reporter the day he signed it he did not support two provisions: a balanced budget amendment and term limits. He was one of 40 Republicans in the House to vote in March 1995 against a constitutional amendment to set 12-year term limits for Representatives.
Hostettler served on the House Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee.
In 1999, Hostettler was appointed vice-chairman of the Armed Services Research and Development Subcommittee for the 106th Congress.
In 2003, Hostettler was appointed the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims. He previously served as chairman of the Congressional Family Caucus, and was a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
In late 1995, Hostettler was the sponsor of a bill passed by the House to repeal a District of Columbia law that allowed city workers to register domestic partners for health benefits.
In January 1996, Hostettler was one of 17 Republicans who voted against a legislation supported by House Speaker Newt Gingrich that ended a federal government shutdown. After the vote, Gingrich canceled plans to visit Evansville for a fund-raising event for Hostettler. Gingrich offered to reschedule, but Hostettler turned him down, saying “I cannot allow my fund raising to be tied in any way to specific votes.” That November would be Hostettler’s closest re-election, against future Evansville Mayor Jon Weinzapfel.
In June 2000, Hostettler was one of 10 Republicans voting against a prescription drug bill that passed the House 217–214. (The bill failed in the Senate.)
In June 2001, Hostettler and Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina (another member of the Republican class of 1995) co-authored a bill, H.R. 2357, to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit churches and other houses of worship to engage in political campaigns without losing their tax-exempt status. In October 2002 the bill was defeated in a 178 to 239 vote in the House.
On July 10, 2002, Hostettler introduced House Amendment 523 to House Resolution 4635, which would have removed the 2% cap on the number of pilots who could be deputized as federal flight deck officers and thus permitted to carry firearms to as well as requiring the Transportation Security Administration to train 20% of all pilots who volunteer for the program within six months of enactment and train 80% by the end of the two-year pilot program. There were no cosponsors to his amendment and it failed in aroll call vote.
On October 10, 2002, U.S. Congressman John Hostettler was one of six House Republicans who voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that authorized the invasion of Iraq. In a speech to the U.S. House on October 8, 2002, invoking St. Augustine’s Just War Thesis, the Minutemen, and the Framers of the U.S. Constitution, Rep. Hostettler revealed his conclusion that:
…Iraq indeed poses a threat, but it does not pose an imminent threat that justifies a pre-emptive military strike at this time.
On July 15, 2003, the House voted 226–198 on a Hostettler-sponsored amendment to the State Departments’s “Foreign Relations Authorization Act” reauthorization bill for Fiscal Years 2004 and 2005, requiring tighter regulation of consular cards of foreign nations within the United States, including Mexico’s “matricula consular” cards. The Senate did pass corresponding legislation in the 108th Congress.
Also in 2003, he amended the Commerce, State, and Justice appropriation bill to restrict any funding for a ruling calling by the Court of Appeals 11th Circuit for the removal of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Supreme Court House. Chief Justice Roy Moore, who was removed from office later in 2003, had placed a 5-ton granite monument that included the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building on July 31, 2001.
In 2004, the House passed the Hostettler-sponsored Marriage Protection Act (MPA). This kept federal courts from ruling on same-sex marriage licenses, as a result of Massachusetts’ Supreme Court ruling on February 3, 2004 on the Massachusetts ban on same-sex marriage.
In September 2005, Hostettler was one of 11 Representatives who voted against the $51.8 billion aid package for relief and recovery from Hurricane Katrina. Spokesman Matt Faraci said Hostettler voted against the hurricane measure because it included a provision making it easy for supposed do-gooders to pilfer federal funds. Faraci said that Hostettler would like to see federal funds spent helping victims of natural disasters so long as those dollars are not squandered. “He was very supportive of giving assistance to people affected by Rita and Katrina,” Faraci said. “He was concerned that there were provisions in the bill that were open to abuse.”
Hostettler had introduced legislation in five consecutive Congress’ to prevent organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union from collecting attorneys’ fees when they win lawsuits challenging religious symbols on public land or religious groups’ use of government property. Hostletter said in a speech in February 2006 that his bill would “restore legal balance in this country, and it will protect us from being the victims of this assault on our religious liberties”. At least one columnist claimed that this change would allow teachers to force students to pray to their specific deity with no possibility of damages or attorney’s fees. In other words, only those who could afford to hire an attorney to challenge the practice would be able to object in court. Since monetary damages were precluded, the only remedy would be an injunction.
In 2006, Hostettler voted against a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman.
Prior to the early 1990s, Hostettler had little interest in politics; his only political activity had been primary and general election voting.
However, in January 1994 Hostettler announced that he would run against Democrat Frank McCloskey, a six-term incumbent, in the November election, who Hostettler claimed was among the House’s biggest-spending liberals. Hostettler also claimed McCloskey was too loyal to President Bill Clinton.
Hostettler was also inspired to enter politics after watching a television program by Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries, interviewing Rev. Peter Marshall (son of the late Senate Chaplain Rev. Dr. Peter Marshall), whereby Rev. Marshall, historian and author, recounted a Christian Heritage of the United States of America.
Hostettler won 52%–48%, becoming the sixth challenger to oust an incumbent in the 8th since 1966. In part due to its volatile nature, the district is often called “the Bloody Eighth.”
In 1996, Hostettler defeated Democratic challenger Jonathan Weinzapfel 50%–48%. This was the narrowest win of his six Congressional victories. Weinzapfel later became mayor of Evansville.
In 1998, with a total of 92,785 votes, he defeated his Democratic challenger, Evansville City Councilwoman Gail Riecken, with 52% to Riecken’s 46% of the vote.
In 2000, with 116,879 votes, Hostettler defeated Democratic challenger Paul Perry, a surgeon, with 53% of the vote to Perry’s 45%.
Doctors for Hostettler, a group of 82 physicians operating in tandem with the Hostettler campaign, organized against the healthcare issues raised by the Perry campaign, a campaign that was healthcare-oriented almost exclusively.
Some attributed this organization as one of the critical factor in the 2000 election, as the subsequently inactive group’s statements played a role in the 2006 campaign.
Redistricting after the 2000 census theoretically made the 8th friendlier to Hostettler. Heavily Democratic Bloomington was cut out of the district and replaced with more conservative-leaning Terre Haute. However, he defeated Democratic challenger Bryan Hartke by only five points—a narrower margin than 2000. He took 51% to Hartke’s 46% percentage of the vote.
Hartke was the nephew of former Senator Vance Hartke.
In 2004, he defeated Democratic challenger Jon Jennings with 53% of the vote.
In 2006 Hostettler’s Democratic opponent was Vanderburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth. Ellsworth also identified as a social conservative. Some saw very little difference between the two candidates, and speculation arose from others that Democrats had to run a clone of John Hostettler to win the district.
The National Republican Congressional Committee had spent $163,000 in his district as of mid-July 2006. (The DCCC, its counterpart, had spent $166,000 for Ellsworth as of that date.) He had never been a strong fundraiser; he never raised more than $800,000 in any campaign. Some attributed Hostettler’s refusal to accept any Political action committee money to his relatively low funding levels during campaigns. In part because of this, he was on somewhat less secure footing than conventional wisdom would suggest for a six-term incumbent.
As of early September, the Rothenberg Political Report called Hostettler one of the three most endangered House incumbents in the country; Chris Cillizza, political analyst forThe Washington Post, ranked Hostettler as the most vulnerable House incumbent in the nation; and Robert D. Novak, a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report, also rated Hostettler’s seat a likely win for Ellsworth.
In mid-October, an opinion poll commissioned by the Evansville Courier & Press showed Ellsworth leading Hostettler, 55% to 32%.
Hostettler debated Ellsworth on October 23, 2006. The debate was at public television station WVUT at Vincennes University, and involved the League of Women Voters.
In the November election, Hostettler was soundly defeated, taking 39 percent of the vote to Ellsworth’s 61 percent. His defeat was the first announced that night.Rick Santorum and Mike DeWine came close. The 8th district vote tally for Ellsworth was only 1% shy of the same district’s tally for President Bush in 2004.
The 22-point margin was the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent in the 2006 cycle, and the second-biggest margin of a defeat in a Republican-held district. Hostettler was the only incumbent in either party who did not receive 40% of the vote, although a few Senators such as
In 2007, Hostettler decided to begin a book publishing company called Publius House Publius House. Nothing for the Nation – Who Got What Out of Iraq examines the true motives of American political leaders behind the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Hostettler said of the book that it “…reveals why political leaders and their subordinates sought to remove Saddam Hussein from power” and that there was an underlying and unapparent “motivation of those who sold America on the idea of ousting the Butcher of Baghdad.”
Hostettler endorsed Chuck Baldwin, nominee of the Constitution Party in the 2008 presidential election. He spoke at the Constitution Party’s national committee meeting inOrlando, Florida, on December 12–13, 2008. Prior to his announcement on December 3, 2009, Hostettler was highly mentioned as a possible candidate to run against Evan Bayh.
2010 U.S. Senate election
Hostettler officially announced in a video posted by the campaign on December 3, 2009, that he would seek the office held by retiring United States Senator Evan Bayh in the 2010 election, following much speculation.
Hostettler had been widely reported to be the leading Republican in the race even after former Senator and Lobbyist Dan Coats announced in February that he would relocate to Indiana and attempt to challenge Hostettler for the open seat, but ultimately placed third in the primary.
Hostettler was one of the “true believers” in the Republican freshman class of 1995. He believed the U.S. Constitution should be strictly interpreted and was very critical of government actions—especially those of judges—that he felt overstepped their constitutional limits. Even those who disagreed with Hostettler felt that they knew where he stood and would likely give him the benefit of the doubt that he regularly voted in principle and not for political ends.
He identifies as strongly pro-life and opposes gun control. He favors the dissolution of the Department of Education, and voted against the No Child Left Behind Act because he felt education was a state matter. He also voted against most federal health care bills with the view that health care is a private or state matter. He maintains that many federal environmental laws and regulations infringed on individuals’ property rights.
Hostettler was very active on issues of religious freedom and expression. For example, during his last term, he was the chief sponsor of the Veterans’ Memorials, Boy Scouts, Public Seals, and Other Public Expressions of Religion Protection Act of 2006, which would have prevented attorneys who successfully challenge violations of the Establishment Clause from collecting attorneys’ fees.
On economic issues, he supported repeal of the estate tax, the capital gains tax and the “marriage tax penalty.”
Hostettler was a hawk by inclination (he strongly supported the Strategic Defense Initiative). However, he was one of the leading Republican opponents of the Iraq War. He felt that preemptive military strikes were improper, and also felt that the military should not go into action unless there was an “imminent threat” to national security.
Hostettler was a hardliner on immigration issues:
…the Constitution … is very clear. These are violations of our immigration law, and those that violate our immigration law should be dealt with, and should be punished, and should be ultimately deported.
He supported building a fence at the Mexican border and opposed benefits of any sort to illegal immigrants. During his last two terms in Congress, he was Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee‘s Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims. He has been called a “leader of the patriotic immigration reform movement”.
Awards and commendations
- The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) bestowed upon Hostettler the Guardian of Small Business Award in 2000 because of attaining a 94% favorable rating with their organization, markedly above the 70% requirement for the award.
- In 2001, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) presented to Hostettler the Taxpayers‘ Friend Award which he shared with 41 other Congressional Members that year.
- The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) gave, for second consecutive year, the Taxpayers’ Friend Award to John Hostettler along with 35 other lawmakers in 2002.
- In 2004, Hostettler received the Distinguished Christian Statesman Award from the Center for Christian Statesmanship, an outreach of Coral Ridge Ministries and Dr. D. James Kennedy.
- He received a perfect 100% rating from the American Conservative Union in 2005.
- In 2006, 9/11 Families for a Secure America gave Hostettler the Homeland Defender Award
On April 30, 2002, Hostettler met in Washington with eleven breast cancer survivors from Indiana who were seeking support for more research funding. In a subsequent campaign letter, Hostettler said Diane Gregory, who set up the meeting, “had expressed interest in reading more about [studies on the link between abortion and breast cancer] and had asked Congressman Hostettler to send her a copy of the reports.” Gregory denied that, saying “The materials on abortion (two brochures) came to me totally unsolicited. I must admit I was disturbed and surprised to receive the brochures.”
According to the women, at the meeting Hostettler “brought up the topic of abortion as the cause of breast cancer” and “made many (of the women) feel he was insinuating that they had had an abortion.” Hostettler’s campaign letter described the women as being on a smear campaign and said their accusations “never happened.”
In early 2003, the National Cancer Institute concluded that it was well established from all available scientific evidence that “induced abortion is not associated with an increase in breast cancer risk.”
Airport firearm possession
On April 20, 2004, Hostettler was briefly detained at the Louisville International Airport when he attempted to board a flight for Washington, D.C., with a loaded 9 mm Glock pistol in his briefcase The congressman explained he “completely forgot” the gun was there, and called it a rather stupid mistake. His spokesman said Hostettler never brought the gun, registered to the Congressman, to Washington, where handguns are illegal. Hostettler did not have a house or apartment in D.C., but slept in his office.
In August, Hostettler pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon. He agreed to a plea-bargained sentence of 60 days in jail, with the jail time to be conditionally discharged rather than served if he had no more legal problems in the next two years. On October 4, 2004, a Kentucky judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest after Hostettler failed to pay court costs, but it was recalled the same day after his attorney paid the $122.50.
Hostettler received strong support over the gun incident from an aviation security expert, Joseph Gutheinz, a retired NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) Senior Special Agent and a former Special Agent with both U.S. Department of Transportation OIG and FAA Civil Aviation Security. In his Op/Ed appearing in the Courier Journal, Gutheinz said that rather than charging Hostettler for an obvious mistake, law enforcement “could have…and should have exercised discretion…by not charging him for bringing his weapon through security at Louisville International Airport.” Gutheinz is a well known critic of letting pilots fly armed.
In June 2005, Democratic Representative David Obey introduced a measure to declare Congressional opposition to “coercive proselytizing” at the United States Air Force Academy after cadets complained that some of their evangelical Christian superior officers had pressured them about their religious beliefs. During debate on the measure on the House floor on June 20, 2005, Hostettler said: “Like a moth to a flame the Democrats can’t help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians.” Democrats objected and threatened to censure Hostettler for his comment. Debate did not resume until Hostettler withdrew his statement 20 minutes later.
Islamic extremism in Canada
In the aftermath of the June 2006 arrests of 17 alleged terrorist bomb-plotters in and around Toronto, Canada, Hostettler said that “South Toronto, like those parts of London that are host to the radical imams who influenced the 9/11 terrorists and the shoe bomber, has people who adhere to a militant understanding of Islam”. Asked later by reporters to describe “South Toronto” in greater detail, Congressman Hostettler characterized the area as “a location which I understand is the type of enclave that allows for this radical type of discussion to go on.” Hostettler’s remarks garnered controversy in Canada as he opposes Canadian requests to delay the impending requirement for the use of passports by both Canadian and American citizens at the Canada-U.S. border.