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IHS Press

The People's Choice, Congressman Jim Jontz of Indiana

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On the eve of Election Day in November 1974, a lonely figure trudged down the road in Monticello, Indiana. Jim Jontz, a young, first-time candidate for the Indiana House of Representatives, was finishing up a long day of campaigning. Offered a ride by a local Democratic Party volunteer at whose house he had been staying, Jontz answered: No, it s late, but there s a laundromat up there that s still open I think I ll go hit before I quit for the night.

The next day Jontz, a twenty-two-year-old Indiana University graduate with an unpaid job as a caretaker for a local nature preserve, defeated his heavily favored Republican opponent, John M. Jack Guy, Indiana House Majority Leader by a razor-thin two-vote margin. The unexpected result stunned election officials.

This first-ever biography of Jontz examines his remarkable long shot political career and lifetime involvement in local, state, and national environmental issues. As a liberal Democrat (he preferred the terms progressive or populist) usually running in conservative districts, Jontz had political pundits predicting his defeat in every election only to see him celebrating another victory with his happy supporters. He won five terms as state representative for the Twentieth District (Benton, Newton, Warren, and White Counties), served two years in the Indiana Senate, and captured three terms in the U.S. Congress representing the sprawling Fifth Congressional District in northwestern Indiana that stretched from Lake County in the north to Grant County in the south. Jontz told a reporter that his political career had always been based on my willingness and role as a spokesman for the average citizen.

Hardcover. 270 pages. 2012, Indiana Historical Society Press. By Ray E. Boomhower.