The House seat left vacant after the musical chairs that followed Dan Quayle’s election as vice president was up for grabs Tuesday in a special election, with Democrat Jill Long and Republican Dan Heath in a close race.
With 217 of 465 precincts reporting, Long had 28,820 votes, or 51%, to Heath’s 27,582, or 49% for the 4th Congressional District seat in 10 northeast Indiana counties.
The Republicans won the seat in the 1988 general election by a margin of nearly 50,000 votes.
Thundershowers, which had been predicted for the afternoon and which Democrats feared would reduce turnout among blue-collar voters casting ballots after factory shift changes, failed to materialize.
With voting predicted to dip as low as 30% among more than 200,000 registered voters, turnout efforts were more important than usual, party workers on both sides said.
Heath’s press aide, Terry Holt, said earlier that the turnout could be heavier than predicted, a factor he said would favor the GOP. “We think if the turnout is between 40% and 50% we’ll be in good shape,” he said.
Heath and Long renewed their campaigns before sunrise, each opening Election Day with a coffee-shop stop here.
An independent poll taken in the week before the election showed Heath with 44% and Long with 36%, with 20% still undecided.
The 4th Congressional District House seat that inaugurated Quayle’s political career was vacated in January by Republican incumbent Dan Coats, who resigned to take the Senate seat Quayle occupied before becoming vice president.
In 1976, district voters were the first to send Quayle to Washington as a 28-year-old congressman. Quayle won reelection in 1978, then gave up the seat in a successful effort to defeat three-term Democratic Sen. Birch Bayh.
Quayle and First Lady Barbara Bush campaigned earlier for the Republican candidate, and former Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Albert Gore Jr. of Tennessee campaigned for the Democrat.