Indiana: Seventh District|
Rep. Ed Pease (R)
Last Updated July 14, 2000
Of the railroad passenger trains that used to run on the lines criss-crossing the township grids of the Midwest, none had a more romantic name than the Wabash Cannonball that rumbled along the Wabash River, across the rolling farmland of northern Indiana on its way from Detroit to St. Louis, crossing the old National Road, now U.S. 40, which runs in a nearly straight line from Indianapolis to St. Louis. The landscape here is some of the most prosaic in the United States, mostly flat, with neat farms and frame-bungalowed towns, looking unchanged from years ago. Today the Cannonball no longer runs: People bounce around the Midwest on commuter airlines from small city to hub, and the National Road and U.S. 40 have been replaced for through traffic by Interstate 70.
The 7th Congressional District covers much of the routes of the Wabash Cannonball and the National Road in western Indiana, starting from the Indianapolis city limits. Its two largest towns are quite different in character. Terre Haute is an old manufacturing town, the boyhood home of Socialist Eugene Debs, and now has a Sony compact disc plant. The town has not gained population in years and tends to vote Democratic--a lonely stand in central Indiana. The other major town is Lafayette, where the main business is Purdue University, Indiana's land-grant college and the alma mater of C-SPAN founder Brian Lamb. Growing and prosperous, Lafayette tends to vote Republican. Even more Republican are the small counties and the suburban territory in Hendricks and Boone Counties outside Indianapolis.
The congressman from the 7th District is Edward Pease, a Republican elected in 1996 to replace 30-year incumbent John Myers. Pease grew up in Terre Haute, where he was an Eagle Scout and high school valedictorian. After college and law school at Indiana University, he practiced law in Brazil, the Clay County seat; he was active in many charities, including the Boy Scouts. In 1980 he was elected to the state Senate, where he served 12 years. In 1984 he went to work as Indiana State University's general counsel in Terre Haute, then became its vice president in 1993.
In 1996 Pease was one of 15 Republicans and four Democrats who ran for the seat being vacated by Myers. Initially Myers said he would endorse no one. But his daughter was supporting Pease and his son-in-law was Pease's communications and finance director. In late April Myers endorsed Pease for the May primary; Pease immediately began running radio and TV ads featuring the endorsement. It may have made the difference: Pease won 30% of the vote, to 17% for former prosecutor John Meyers. Three other candidates carried their home counties, while Pease carried pretty much everything else. In the general election Pease faced Democrat Robert Hellmann, a Terre Haute neighbor, longtime state legislator, and a self-described conservative. Hellmann attacked Pease for selling his house to a cousin for $350,000, renting it back, and donating $155,000 to his own campaign. But Pease won 62%-35%, carrying every county but Vigo, which includes Terre Haute, where he lost by only 159 votes, and next-door Vermillion. He had 57% in the county that includes Lafayette and 73% and 70% in Hendricks and Boone Counties, outside Indianapolis.
Pease wanted a seat on Appropriations, but settled for Transportation and Infrastructure, where he was the only Indiana member while the committee reauthorized the highway bill, in which Indiana got $1.3 billion more than before. He compiled a very conservative voting record and yet indicated a desire for comity rather than confrontation.
In Washington he seemed to make news mostly as a victim of crime: In March 1997 burglars stole his valuables, casual clothes and two sandwiches (''I guess they must have been hungry and cold''), and in November 1998 he was robbed at gunpoint in Arlington. He made more news as a member of the Judiciary Committee during impeachment hearings. Pease's comments were calm, concise, respectful--and solidly for impeachment.
Back home Pease's opponents made no attempt to raise money. ''Basically, you're looking at a nonelection,'' said Indiana State University professor James McDowell. Pease won 69%-28%.
Safe. This district has consistently elected Republicans for years and shows no signs of doing any differently in 2000. Pease is a safe bet in 2000.
Update: July 14, 2000
In a surprise announcement, Ed Pease on January 15, 2000, said he would not seek re-election to Congress after only two terms. Pease, who was re-elected by almost 70% of the vote in 1998, said that among other things, a health scare with heart pains had caused him to reflect on his future. ''Events of the last two years have helped me to focus on the things that I want to do most--spend more time in the fields and forests of Indiana with family and friends.''
Three days after Pease's announcement, his chief of staff, Brian Kerns, said he would run for the seat. Kerns is the son-in-law of John T. Myers, who represented the district in Congress from 1967 until 1996. Myers and Pease endorsed Kerns, but he faced a strong challenge for the Republican nomination from Bob Griffiths, a financial planner from Lafayette who had heavy backing in his Tippecanoe County home. Griffiths also raised more money than Kerns: $189,000 to Kerns' $127,000 as of April 12, about three weeks before the primary.
Kerns touted his managerial experience in the campaign, but less than a week before the primary the Indianapolis Star reported that several former staffers said Kerns ran a poorly organized office that was hostile to women. Four women who formerly worked for Pease accused Kerns of verbal abuse while they were under his supervision and of ordering one of them to do campaign work from a government office. The alleged mistreatment took place in 1997, when seven women left Pease's office during a three-month period. Kerns denied that he or any of his employees broke the law but declined to comment on the women's other charges. He questioned the timing of the allegations, and accused some of them of being involved in an opponent's campaign.
Kerns, however, was still able to win the primary with 39% of the vote. Griffiths won big in Tippecanoe County, but Kerns beat him everywhere else. He was second with 32% and physician Alex Gatzimos finished third with 12%. Gatzimos ran an aggressive campaign and raised the most money - about $258,000, most of it his own. He may have helped spilt the anti-Kerns vote.
Michael Douglas Graf, a United Parcel Service employee who raised only $1,300, surprisingly won the Democratic nomination. He upset Jeffrey Clapper, who had party backing and had raised more than $14,000. But Graf has little chance of winning in this Republican district come November.
- Pop. 1990: 554,500
- 48% rural;
13% age 65+;
- 96.4% White,
0.2% Amer. Indian,
0.8% Hispanic origin;
60.5% married couple families;
29.4% married couple fams. w. children;
38.9% college educ.;
median household income: $28,080;
per capita income: $12,536;
median gross rent: $279;
median house value: $54,700.
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