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INDIANAPOLIS | A crowded field of eight Northwest Indiana Republicans are vying for the opportunity to challenge U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky in November.

But before one of them can face the embattled 13-term Democratic representative from Merrillville, region Republicans must decide Tuesday who should get that opportunity.

Most of the eight candidates in the GOP race have run small, but energetic campaigns. All want the chance to try to steer the state's usually solid Democratic 1st Congressional District to the Republican side.

Through March, Peter Lindemulder III, a Dyer businessman, has raised and spent the most money among the eight candidates. He says government needs to be more business-friendly to create an environment where businesses can find success and create new jobs.

"Northwest Indiana should be proud of our industrial heritage, but we need to prepare ourselves for the rapidly changing global economy and realize that the way to become more prosperous is through fostering small business innovation," Lindemulder said in a statement.

Rob Pastore, a Hammond businessman, has raised the second most money among the candidates. Pastore said Visclosky's vote in favor of health care reform legislation shows that Visclosky isn't listening to his constituents.

"Pete Visclosky has ignored senior citizens, union workers, the Tea Party, NWI Patriots and other conservative groups who have protested at his Merrillville office for months," Pastore said. "These freedom-loving Americans should not be brushed aside."

Another candidate, Eric Olson, a Cedar Lake businessman, agrees. Olson said he was "disgusted" by Visclosky's "elitist" attitude in town hall meetings discussing health reform.

Mark Leyva, a Highland carpenter, won the Republican nomination most recently in 2008, but lost to Visclosky in the general election. Since then he's organized Tea Party protests at the Lake County Government Complex.

He has told The Times he'd like a shot at a rematch with Visclosky.

Leyva is not alone in taking a repeat shot at the nomination. Ric Holtz, a Merrillville accountant, Michael Petyo, a Hobart construction company president, and Jayson Reeves, a Gary engineer, all have failed in prior runs.

Newcomer Adam A. Dombkowski, a Valparaiso manager, also is running for the GOP nomination.

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