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Inside Politics

Hostettler defends his seat in Indiana

Republican projected to beat former Celtics scout in 8th District

In the past, Rep. John Hostettler has won his seat by just a little above 50 percent.
House: IN 08 Updated: 5:32 p.m. ET
Hostettler 53%
Jennings 45%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Republican incumbent John Hostettler will fend off Democratic challenger Jon Jennings and Libertarian candidate Mark Garvin to keep his seat in the Indiana's 8th district, CNN projects.

The 43-year-old native of Evansville, who first won the seat in 1994 with 52 percent of the vote, won re-election with 52 and 53 percent in 1998 and 2000. Then, in 2002, in a district redrawn by the Democratic-controlled legislature, he won with 51 percent.

This time around, Hostettler, considered a strong fiscal and social conservative, proved to be his own worst enemy. His troubles had little to do with his political views or his opponents.

Two years ago, he ended up in hot water after accusing several breast cancer survivors of trying to smear him. The reputation he earned from that matter as something of a loose cannon was trumped this year, when he was stopped in Louisville International Airport for carrying a loaded handgun.

Yet the incumbent was considered a good bet to keep his seat against the challenge of his Democratic opponent, whose claim to fame is being a scout for the Boston Celtics -- the team of Indiana icon Larry Bird. Jennings, who offered moderate positions on issues (he is pro-life and pro-gun), also worked as a congressional liaison in the Justice Department and as a White House fellow during the Clinton administration.

Hostettler supporters hammered Jennings for his Massachusetts ties. He lived in Boston for 10 years while scouting for the Celtics and had only lived for a year and a half in the district he sought to represent. As well, close to 50 percent of his campaign donations came from Massachusetts residents.

Their last debate got a little feisty, as Hostettler described Jennings as someone who "very much appreciates" larger government bureaucracy. Jennings charged back, labeling Hostettler an ineffective congressman who failed to fight for jobs, less expensive health care and lower college costs during his 10 years representing Southwestern Indiana's 8th district.

But Hostettler felt that he would maintain support from his constituents. He received the backing of the Indianapolis Star, which forgave "the fact that he is not as smooth or articulate as many politicians," saying that he "did not plan a career in politics."

And The Cook Political Report ran the results of a Tarrance Group poll done in July for the National Republican Congressional Committee in which Hostettler had a comfortable edge, 58 percent to 26 percent.

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