Why pols look for votes right up to the last minute

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As political candidates scurry around at the last minute looking for just a few more votes, they’re thinking about stories such as that of Jim Jontz, a state representative, state senator and congressman who formerly represented northwest Indiana.

As Ray E. Boomhower tells it in his new biography of Jontz, on Election Day eve in 1974, two campaign workers were driving home after a long day on the campaign trail. They came upon Jontz, then campaigning for a seat in the Indiana House of Representatives in his first run for political office.

They offered him a ride, but he responded, “No, it’s late, but there’s a laundromat up there that’s still open. I think I’ll hit before I quit for the night.”

Jontz was a 22-year-old Indiana University graduate with an unpaid job as a caretaker for a local nature preserve. His opponent was the Indiana House majority leader.

But the next day, Jontz defeated his heavily favored GOP opponent by just two votes.

(Boomhower’s book is The People’s Choice: Congressman Jim Jontz of Indiana (October, Indiana Historical Society Press).

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