Indiana’s ‘Bloody’ Eighth isn’t what it used to be

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The U.S. House race between Congressman Larry Buschon and challenger William Tanoos enters the final hours. Experts say competition for this seat isn’t what it once was.

Political scientists say Indiana’s 8th District has settled down in this decade, thanks in part to redistricting in 2002, but the bloody past is hard to ignore, especially for journalists who covered it.

When Indiana voters across the Tri-State fill in their ballot bubbles, most know who they’re voting for.
But you might like to know our 8th congressional district has a history of brutal campaigns and defeats.

“I knew that it had been extremely competitive,” said Thomas Langhorne, political reporter for the Evansville Courier & Press. One of his first big assignments for the paper was covering the race between Republican incumbent John Hostettler and Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth.

“It was not surprising the republican would lose,” Langhorne remembered. “I wouldn’t have been surprised by anything that year.”

The Bloody Eighth has had national coverage on C-SPAN, and it has been written about in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and more.

Republicans and Democracts have a history of flip-flopping in office but perhaps the most intense battle at polls unfolded in 1984 and Democrat Frank McCloskey and Republican Rick McIntyre were entangled in a recount that ended with a McCloskey win by just 4 votes.

That bloody reputation flowed into the 2006 campaign with Hostettler and Ellsworth.

“The main issue at the time overshadowing everything was the Iraq War,” said Langhorne.

As different as the issues were then as they are now, so too, experts say, is the competition.

In 2006, Ellsworth defeated Hostletter by a 22-point margin. It was the biggest loss by any house incumbent that year.

Buschon has been in office for 8 years. His campaign war chest of almost a million dollars dwarfs Tanoos’ $220,000.

Buschon has increased his margin of victory every year since winning in 2010.

Langhorne says Buschon’s fundraising is a big reason why he has won the office and stayed there.

“Back in the 90s and early 2000s you could make a case it was the Bloody 8th, but since then it’s been easier to lock down that district,” Langhorne said.

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This story was originally published on November 5, 2019

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