For Hoosiers of a certain age, references to Indiana’s “Bloody” 8th District bring to mind a mug shot of Rep. Joel Deckard’s that appeared in newspapers throughout the district. Three weeks before the 1982 election, Deckard crashed his car into a tree and was charged with drunken driving.
He should have easily won a third term in the House. Instead, he was upset by Bloomington Mayor Frank McCloskey, a liberal Democrat.
Two years later, McCloskey’s re-election bid against Republican Rick McIntyre ended in a virtual dead heat. A House recount declared McCloskey the winner by four votes. Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich, cried foul. The late NPR journalist Cokie Roberts, who covered the recount, later tied the dispute to the rise of hyper-partisanship in modern American politics.
But that was then, and this is now. The 8th District was redrawn after the 2000 census to drop Bloomington and add Terre Haute. Its voters haven’t ousted an incumbent since 2006. Earlier this year, Cook Political Report rated the district R+15 – about as safe a Republican district as you’ll find.
Rep. Larry Bucshon is the beneficiary of the shift. An Evansville heart surgeon in his sixth term, Bucshon has used his perspective as a physician to become a leader in Republican positions on health care. His congressional website details his call to repeal and replace Obamacare with “patient-centered reforms” such as price transparency, deregulation and restrictions on lawsuits.
He is staunchly anti-abortion and pro-gun, positions that resonate in the district, and boasts of “fighting burdensome Washington bureaucrats and regulations, working to protect innocent human life (and) supporting tax cuts.” He has been an advocate for transportation projects, including development of I-69.
Bucshon was first elected to an open seat in the 8th District after Rep. Brad Ellsworth, a conservative Democrat and former Vanderburgh County sheriff, gave up the seat for a failed U.S. Senate try. The Illinois native has generally coasted to re-election, regularly garnering more than 60% of the vote, including a 67% share in 2020 after a campaign in which the congressman insisted he wasn’t taking the race for granted. After all, it’s the Bloody 8th, where crazy things have happened. — Steve Hinnefeld