Gizzi on Politics: Week of Dec. 10

Hero of the ‘Bloody Eighth’ Passes

When I ran into Steve Nix and Larry Halloran, two former members of the National Republican Congressional Committee staff, at the recent International Republican Institute Freedom Luncheon here, they shocked me with the news that Rick McIntyre had died at age 51 October 31. A circuit court judge in Indiana and a former state legislator, the conservative McIntyre took his own life at his home for reasons still unknown. McIntyre, a graduate of Indiana University Law School, was also a lieutenant colonel and judge advocate in the Indiana National Guard.

What stunned me as much as the passing of someone so young was that, as far as I was aware, no major Washington publication reported McIntyre’s death. To me, that was sad: Twenty-three years ago, the Republican House nominee in Indiana’s 8th District made nationwide headlines almost daily for his involvement in one of the most fiercely disputed races for any office. So intense was the months-long recount in the photo-finish between McIntyre and Democratic Rep. Frank McCloskey that the press dubbed their district “the Bloody Eighth.” The intense feelings that erupted following the Democrat-controlled House’s seating of McCloskey after McIntyre had been certified the winner by the state were prophetic of the highly charged conflict between the two parties in Congress in the 1980s and 90s. When liberal pundits decried what they considered the “partisanship” of Republicans under Newt Gingrich after they won a House majority in 1994, conservatives frequently pointed to the 1984 “McRace” — McIntyre vs. McCloskey — as a case of people in glass houses who shouldn’t throw stones.

On the same evening that Ronald Reagan won his second term as President, 27-year-old Republican State Rep. McIntyre appeared to have defeated freshman Democratic Rep. McCloskey by 39 votes out of more than 232,000 cast. The following morning, recounts in all 15 counties of the 8th District gave McIntyre a 418-vote edge, and he was certified the winner by Indiana’s secretary of state.

But in January, for only the second time in the 20th Century, the House refused to seat the certified winner of a congressional race and left the district without a congressman for five months. During that time, a special House panel controlled by Democrats and chaired by then-Rep. (1976-93) and Clinton White House chief-of-staff to be Leon Panetta (D.-Calif.) “recounted” the 8th District ballots, disqualifying some and qualifying others, and reached the conclusion that McCloskey had been re-elected by four votes.

Rhetoric grew as shrill as it did during the Vietnam War, and insults flew like shrapnel as the House seated McCloskey on a totally partisan vote. To a person, GOP lawmakers walked out of the House and, in a press conference on the Capitol steps, branded what had happened “The Great Indiana Congressional Robbery.” Buttons declaring “Thou Shalt Not Steal” began to appear at Republican gatherings nationwide, and McIntyre took his story to party events in 50 cities across the country. McCloskey, Republicans vowed, would have the shortest career in House history.

But two years can be an eternity in politics. By the time of their rematch in 1986, the rage over the ’84 outcome had faded. Despite spending more than $500,000 and being the lone Republican House candidate to benefit from a campaign appearance by President Reagan, who called on Hoosiers to correct “a great injustice” by electing McIntyre, the GOP hopeful could not overcome a national Democratic tide and lost to McCloskey 53% to 47%. McCloskey survived strong challenges from Republicans in three subsequent trips to the polls until conservative GOPer John Hostettler took him out in 1994. McCloskey would go on to become a forceful advocate of U.S. military action in the Balkans and died of cancer in 2003.

Although fans encouraged McIntyre to try again for Congress or seek statewide office, the Evansville lawyer instead accepted an appointment to the state bench from Republican Gov. (1980-88) Robert Orr. Whatever the reason behind his tragic and too-early end, the most poignant comment on Rick McIntyre was perhaps that of former 8th District Rep. (1966-74) Roger Zion (R.-Ind.) years before: “Whatever McIntyre and McCloskey do for the rest of their careers, they’ll probably be best remembered as the players in this unhappy drama.”

Sons Also Rise (Sometimes)

Looking back at the recent elections, I found that heirs to famous political names are still doing well — but not always.In Connecticut, for example, Republicans got some excitement with the election of 36-year-old Jason McCoy as mayor of Vernon. McCoy, an attorney and deputy mayor of the city, unseated Democratic Mayor Ellen Marmer. McCoy is the grandson of Frank McCoy, the city’s revered mayor of the 1960s and ’70s. Frequently boomed for higher office, Frank McCoy preferred city hall and local issues and the baseball field in Vernon’s South Street Henry Park is named for him. Like his grandfather, Jason McCoy is considered more conservative than most Nutmeg State Republicans and already is talked of as a future candidate for statewide office.

Patrick Herrity was a landslide (59% of the vote) winner of one of the 10 seats on the Board of Supervisors in Fairfax County, the most populous county in Northern Virginia. Older Human Events readers may recall Patrick’s father, the late Jack Herrity, who served as chairman of the Fairfax County Board in the 1970s and lost a close race for Congress against Democratic Rep. (1974-80) Herb Harris in 1978. At 47 and now the chief financial officer of Arrowhead Global Solutions, the younger Herrity is talked of as the eventual GOP candidate for board chairman should Democratic incumbent Gerald Connelly win a U.S. House seat next year.

But sons don’t always rise. In Tennessee, Democratic State Sen. Ward Crutchfield resigned his Chattanooga seat earlier this year after pleading guilty to bribery in the FBI’s Operation Tennessee Waltz corruption probe. The winner of the special election to fill his seat was Democrat Andy Berke, who rolled up 63% of the vote against Republican Oscar Brock, son of former Republican Rep. (1962-70), Sen. (1970-76), Republican National Chairman (1976-80), U.S. Trade Representative (1980-83) and Secretary of Labor (1983-087) William Brock, III.


View All