Richard McIntyre, the Republican candidate for Indiana's 8th Congressional District seat, said yesterday that a final recount showed him the winner over Democratic Rep. Frank McCloskey, but Democrats contested the result, saying the election will be decided by the House Administration Committee.
McIntyre said the recount shows him the winner by 415 votes of more than 228,000 cast, and he threatened to go to court if the Democratic-controlled House refuses to seat him. He was certified the winner last month by Indiana's secretary of state after a retabulation gave him a 34-vote victory. McIntyre contends that House tradition is to seat the certified winner even if the election is being contested.
Aides to House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) said there was a precedent for not seating McIntyre. In another contested Indiana House race, in 1961, Republican George Chambers was certified the winner but Democrat Ed Roush was seated after the House completed its recount.
"The ballots have been recounted and the results show conclusively that I am the winner," McIntyre said yesterday. "It is only fair that I be seated immediately and be allowed to represent the people who elected me . . . . "
Democrats deny the validity of the recount on the ground that the district's 15 counties lack a uniform standard for disqualifying ballots. They estimate that there are 3,500 contested ballots in Vanderburgh County (Evansville) alone and at least 1,000 more in the rest of the district.
Of the 3,500 in Vanderburgh, "about 2,000 are for McCloskey," Martin D. Franks, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said. "Many are in black precincts, and the election probably is going to be decided on the basis of whether those black precincts in Vanderburgh are counted."
McCloskey predicted that he would be seated by March 1, once the House Administration Committee has examined all contested ballots.
"About 5,000 ballots have been thrown out, for technical and not substantive reasons," he said. "When I get a uniform count, not 14 of 15 counties , I'll win."
Franks predicted that if all the disputed ballots were counted, McCloskey would win by 20 votes.
"Neither candidate should be seated until thousands of contested ballots have been resolved, and the House will resist any such effort before then," Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), chairman of the Democratic campaign committee, said yesterday. "Nothing has changed the fact that Frank McCloskey won on Election Day, and an honest, complete and nonpartisan vote count will confirm that."
The election in Indiana's 8th District was the closest congressional race in the nation last fall, with McCloskey originally declared the winner by 73 votes. Two precincts in one county had been counted twice, however, and when that error was corrected, McIntyre was certified the winner by 34 votes.
Both candidates demanded recounts in all 15 counties, however, and have accused each other of trying to steal the election.
"It will be clear to the people in Indiana and the rest of the nation that the Democrats are trying to steal the election," McIntyre said yesterday. "I've increased my lead tenfold. Are the Democrats going to make me increase it another tenfold?"