Three Republicans vying for chance to unseat Mrvan

Three Lake County Republicans are looking to be the party’s answer to long-time Democratic control of Indiana’s First Congressional District.

Randy Niemeyer, Lake County’s Republican Party chair and current 7th District Councilman; Mark Leyva, whose been seeking the nomination since 2010; and newcomer Ben Ruiz, a self-described “Ultra MAGA” Republican, are seeking the party’s nomination in May for the chance to unseat incumbent Congressman Frank Mrvan, a Democrat.

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

Niemeyer, who has the backing of the national party, said he is glad 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, blue-collar business owner makes him the right choice for the job.

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

“I would say my credentials in local government speaks for itself. I’m happy to be part of the party,” Niemeyer said, adding he has done more work to build the Republican party than both of them put together.

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

He said his perspective as a small business owner in the district is one that he thinks connects with people, who are forced every day to make tough decisions on sometimes slim and nonexistent margins.

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

He also touted his 16 years of experience in local government starting as a Cedar Lake town councilman, where he said the town was borrowing from the sewer utility to make ends meet. Niemeyer said when he left the town, all the accounts had cash balances and did not have to wait on tax draws to pay its bills.

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

“There is a diversity of perspective of every department of government there. My job as a member of the fiscal and legislative bodies is to find those connecting points,” Niemeyer said.

“I think those relationships in government are what we need at every level to succeed. We can disagree on things. We shouldn’t have to be disagreeable,” he said.

Leyva said he has run for office “more than I want to say.”

He first decided to run for seat in 2010 as a joke because nobody else would run against former Congressman Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville. Without much money behind him, Leyva said candidates must run frequently to build name recognition.

“You either have money and have to use it wisely to get that name recognition, or you have to be out there pushing it time after time to get it. Hopefully, I have,” Leyva said.

“I can only tell you, I’ve been working the hardest I ever worked and I’ve been doing the most I can ever do. The rest pretty much is in God’s hands.”

Leyva likens the contest to the biblical battle between David and Goliath.

“This year is different. Even though they believe they have the chosen one with a lot of money, they don’t,” Leyva said.

“The reason I want to hold this position is I want to prove an average working guy like myself … can actually do it. Both parties, they want to say they have open arms and want you in, but they want tons and tons of worker bees. Whatever you do, don’t run for an office unless you ask them for their blessing and that’s wrong,” Leyva said.

Leyva decried Neimeyer running for office while serving as the party’s county chairman. He said it gives him an unfair advantage including access to data centers he does not have.

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

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

He said the way to drain the swamp in Washington D.C. is at the local and state level. He said the party keeps picking its preferred candidate.

“We need to start putting our American culture first before anything else. I’m not picked by the establishment, that’s for sure … They chose to go with their preferred candidate of choice. They are able to control their candidate,” Ruiz said.

He is looking to create more transparency and accountability and decried politicians who become millionaires once they are elected to office.

Ruiz said he homeschools his children because he does not like to see the “leftist ideologies like social justice and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) playing out.”

“It is inciting more hateful behavior of other people who do not come from their diverse backgrounds,” Ruiz said. He said education should focus on teaching history so history does not repeat itself.

2020 Election and Jan. 6, 2021

The Post-Tribune asked the candidates their opinions on several 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 any further than where we sit today with the nation on the brink of WWIII, open borders, inflation and the economy, higher credit card debt.

Niemeyer said if he is serving 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 that’s out.

“I believe it was not fair because of … the absentee ballots and the Wisconsin race…,” Leyva said. If he is in office in January, it would not be his job to certify the election, but he would do so, “as long as there isn’t any reported voter fraud.”

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

“I think that all of the surmounting evidence has come to show that,” Ruiz said. He called the current criminal proceedings against former President Trump election interference and lawfare. If he was serving in Congress, he said he would vote to certify the election.

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

Leyva, on the other hand, said he did not believe the Jan. 6 defendants have been rightfully found guilty of their crimes.

“The videos proved different,” Leyva said, claiming there’s evidence to show there were 50 FBI agents inciting violence and the Capitol Police opened the doors inviting the mob inside.

The House Committee Investigating Jan. 6 dismissed the claims the FBI incited the violence. A June Senate committee report found a failure by the FBI to adequately assess intelligence information received before Jan. 6.

The Justice Department has charged more than 1,200 people for their roles in the attacks and more than 700 of those individuals have been found guilty. PolitiFact and other news organizations have repeatedly rebutted the unsubstantiated theory that federal agents instigated the violence, finding no evidence to support the claim, according to the site.

“They are political prisoners,” Ruiz said.


Niemeyer did not disclose his position on abortion, only saying that the Supreme Court made clear in the June 2022 Dobbs decision 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 thrown into doubt in February when the Alabama Supreme Court controversially ruled that frozen embryos are human beings. Though the process resumed at some IVF clinics after emergency legislation was passed in the state, the law didn’t address the personhood question at the heart of the court decision.

“It is something I think is important to allow people who can’t conceive naturally to have a natural family. I support IVF. I think we should do everything we can in our states to (support families),” Niemeyer said.

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

He said the issue is a matter of state’s rights and does not expect the vote to be a matter before federal legislators. He said he also would support access to IVF, but admitted he would need more information about the procedure’s impact on fertilized embryos left over from the process.

Ruiz also called the issue of abortion rights one that should be left to the states. On a personal level, he said he is against abortion. He would support IVF because he does not believe any embryos are unnecessarily destroyed.

“I am proud to say I am pro-life. No other human deserves to take another’s life. That’s not healthcare. It just isn’t … Women don’t go in for an abortion because it’s a life-saving procedure. They are doing it for whatever purpose they have found themselves in a pregnancy and just want it aborted,” Ruiz said.

An Associated Press investigation showed complaints doubled post-Dobbs from women seeking treatment for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies who were turned away from hospitals, particularly in states with abortion bans. Federal law mandates that hospitals treat or stabilize patients who are in active labor.