Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The People's Choice

After graduating from Indiana University with a degree in journalism in 1982, I was lucky enough to find a job on a small daily newspaper in northwestern Indiana, the Rensselaer Republican. As a newbie reporter on a small newspaper, I undertook a variety of assignments, including covering local legislative races. One of the first races I covered involved an Indiana state representative named Jim Jontz.

What impressed me most about Jontz was while his GOP opponent spent the bulk of his time in his interview with me blasting the Democrat, Jontz, between bites of at meal at Monticello pancake house, talked at length about the issues.

Since that time, I have been fascinated by Jontz's career, which included three terms as congressman for the Fifth Congressional District before losing in 1992 to Republican Steve Buyer. My interest in Jontz, who died in 2007 after a long battle with colon cancer, has resulted in a profile that is featured in the fall 2010 issue of the Indiana Historical Society's popular history magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. The magazine, which I serve as editor, is a benefit of membership in the Society and can be purchased from the organization's History Market.

I'll share one anecdote from the article:

Christopher Klose, who managed Jontz’s first run for Congress and served as his chief of staff in Washington, D.C., called his former boss “a true populist,” noting he could be just as distrustful of mindless government as he could of reckless corporate behavior. He remembered Jontz saying that issues needed to be examined from “top to bottom, not left to right.” One of Klose’s favorite memories of Jontz is one culled from the campaign trail. After another long day and night seeking votes, the candidate, after packing up his car for the next day’s schedule of events, uttered what came to be known to his staff as the Jim Jontz prayer. “Jim would just shake his head and look up and say, ‘Lord, help me win this one, and I promise next time we’ll do it right,’” Klose said.

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