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David McIntosh has built his campaign around a guarantee to cut residential property taxes by 25 percent if he's elected - a promise criticized as impossible because it is prohibitively expensive and requires legislative approval.
But McIntosh is undeterred.
In fact, he has staked his potential long-term career on it, promising he won 't seek re-election as governor if he fails to achieve his goal in his first four years.
Democrats call the claim desperate, but those who know McIntosh say that's just his personality - confident and resolute.
Such determination has been a hallmark of the Republican's six years in the U.S. House, where he's known as a staunch conservative - socially and fiscally - and a risk-taker.
His experiences - and involvement in some of the GOP's high-profile successes
- have left him unafraid to make what some consider audacious promises.
After all, McIntosh said last week, voters sent him to the House in 1994 after he signed the Contract with America, part of a coordinated campaign effort that helped Republicans win control of Congress.
"We put our word on the line. We said these are the 10 things we guarantee we 'll bring up for a vote,'' McIntosh said. "I followed through on that commitment in Congress. We got a lot of it done, in spite of President Clinton's opposition.''
During McIntosh's three terms in Washington, Congress and the president have accomplished goals that had once been considered unfeasible, including balancing the federal budget and reshaping the federal welfare system.
McIntosh has repeatedly pointed to such victories during his campaign to oust incumbent Gov. Frank O'Bannon, a Corydon Democrat.
McIntosh has compared criticism of his property-tax plan to that from people who thought the federal budget couldn't be balanced. He said he has shown a willingness to make tough fiscal choices.
Special-interest groups that support conservative tax, spending and regulatory policies agree. The National Taxpayer Union has given McIntosh a B+ rating. He achieved an 87 percent voting record with Citizens Against Government Waste and has an 89 percent lifetime record with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
But such federal achievements came when Republicans had control of the House and Senate and President Clinton had little choice but to try to work with - rather than against - the GOP majorities.
They also came in the midst of a record national economic expansion.
THAT'S SOMETHING McIntosh might not enjoy if he's elected governor. Democrats expect to retain control of the Indiana House (Republicans are firmly in control of the Senate), and the state is facing tighter financial times.
But McIntosh says he's confident he can work with Democrats and within the state's fiscal constraints to accomplish his vision.
"I've got to use a lot of political capital,'' he said. "But I've got faith in the goodness of people and the dedication to our state of public servants. "I think they'll work with me as long as I keep the door open and say that on details we can work together; I'm willing to compromise.''
McIntosh was born in California but moved with his mother to Kendallville, a farming community in northeastern Indiana, after his father's death. His mother became a Democratic city judge there, but McIntosh's first real political spark came when he was 18 and saw Dan Quayle in his first campaign for Congress.
With scholarships and student loans, McIntosh put himself through Yale, where he began to see himself as a Republican. Although he voted in 1976 for Democrat Jimmy Carter for president, he swung to the GOP in 1980, voting for Ronald Reagan.
McIntosh went on to the University of Chicago Law School and helped found the conservative Federalist Society.
Since then he has built a resume of impressive conservative credentials.
He worked in the U.S. Justice Department under Reagan and served as the president's special assistant for domestic affairs. He also served as a liaison to Reagan's Commission on Privatization.
WHEN QUAYLE went to the White House, McIntosh went to work for the vice president's Council on Competitiveness, a group led by Al Hubbard, who is now McIntosh's campaign manager. The group was charged with reviewing government regulations to ensure they were not too burdensome.
McIntosh also worked for the Washington-based Citizens for a Sound Economy, a group that fights newly proposed taxes. He eventually returned to Indiana, where he worked as an analyst at the conservative Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute.
Then he ran for Congress.
In that first 1994 campaign, McIntosh eked out a primary win and decisively defeated then-Secretary of State Joe Hogsett, a Democrat, in a general election that saw Republicans sweep into control of the U.S. House and Senate.
He entered Congress as part of a heralded freshman class of new conservative faces and became the group's liaison to leadership.
Newly chosen House Speaker Newt Gingrich tapped McIntosh to head a subcommittee handling regulatory reform.
The day he was sworn in - even as staffers were unpacking boxes - McIntosh already was drafting a moratorium on new regulations and working on legislation that would change the way agencies could impose new rules on businesses.
Democrats assailed the bill as an attack on the environment and workplace safety, and the legislation died.
But in 1996 McIntosh successfully amended a debt-limit bill to give Congress the power to veto or change proposed regulations within 60 legislative days, a move that significantly changed the relationship between agencies and legislators and cut administrative power.
He took on the so-called marriage penalty as one of his top priorities, co-sponsoring legislation to change tax law so a married couple wouldn't pay the government more than they would if they were single.
He urged couples from around the country to send their stories to his Web site and then went from congressional office to office, telling lawmakers personal stories from their own districts.
"We convinced leadership to make it one of our issues, an agenda item,'' McIntosh said. "This year, President Clinton was the one man who stopped the bill from going forward with his veto. I think it will get through next year because of the groundwork we laid.''
McIntosh has been part of controversial - and less successful - efforts as well. He supported eliminating the U.S. Department of Education. He pushed a bill to severely limit lobbying by non-profit organizations that receive federal funds, legislation considered by some as an infringement on free-speech rights.
McIntosh also was among the lawmakers who supported a shutdown of parts of the federal government when Republicans couldn't reach a budget compromise with Clinton. McIntosh insisted that Republicans should withstand the political pressures of the shutdown to win a seven-year balanced budget deal.
In 1998 he became chairman of the Conservative Action Team, a group that made efforts, largely unsuccessful, to force House leadership to take more aggressive stands on issues.
He became increasingly frustrated with GOP tax and regulatory legislation that he believed didn't go far enough.
AFTER AN easy re-election campaign in 1998, McIntosh toyed with running for speaker but eventually abandoned the idea.
His ideas led him instead to state politics.
"I saw in Washington that the momentum from 1994 had worked its way through the system,'' McIntosh said. "The new momentum would come from whoever won the presidency.
"There would be plenty to do, but I thought here in our home state I could lead in a way that could get more things done. There's more opportunity to contribute more to more people here at the state level.''
In Washington, McIntosh worked to create policies that fit his conservative philosophies, but he had to watch someone else put those ideas into action.
He saw an opportunity as governor to show how conservative tax-andspend policies could work.
"I'll still approach it with a conservative philosophy, with an emphasis on individual freedoms and strong families, but ultimately the duty of the governor is to make the programs work,'' he said.
So McIntosh has devoted nearly all his energy to his campaign for governor - at the expense, Democrats say, of his 2nd congressional district constituents in east-central Indiana.
While campaigning for governor, McIntosh has missed more than half the roll call votes taken in the House. That gives him the chamber's worst voting record.
He promised earlier this year that he would "continue to be there to represent Hoosiers when it really counts.''
And McIntosh said he has. He returned to push unsuccessfully for a congressional override of Clinton's veto of the marriage-penalty bill and has gone back to Washington for other issues that he sees as important.
He said none of the votes he has missed have been close enough that he would have made a difference.
DEMOCRATS have pounded on him, sending out dozens of alerts about McIntosh's missed votes.
"Rep. McIntosh showed his lack of concern for Hoosier seniors by missing a vote today to renew the Older Americans Act, which provides numerous services such as Meals-OnWheels to the nation's elderly,'' said a statement released last Wednesday by the Indiana Democratic Party.
But McIntosh said his constituents understand his commitment to the governor 's race and the importance of the campaign.
During that campaign, McIntosh has proposed some scaling back of state government. He said he's willing to cap spending on many social programs and cut spending on others to reduce taxes and spur economic development.
He has proposed cutting the budgets of some government divisions - including the agencies that regulate environmental issues and utilities - about 7 percent in 2001 and 2002 to save even more money.
And he said he expects most agencies to try to save more money to give back to the general fund at the end of each fiscal year.
He's excited about working on regulatory policy at the state level as well.
"I want to have smarter regulations that achieve the social goal like clean environment and better health,'' he said. "I want to use a different approach than the federal government has tried to force on the states.
"Instead of command and control - where you specify every little thing - I want the agencies to set out goals, and if a company meets the goals, then they have some flexibility.''
If companies fail to meet environmental, health or safety goals, then the state needs to use various enforcement tools.
Overall, McIntosh said he wants to free Hoosier residents and businesses to achieve.
"I want to motivate people on both sides of the aisle,'' he said. "I want to bring out the tremendous potential in our citizens.''
Political party: Republican
Occupation: Attorney, member of U.S. House of Representatives, Indiana's 2nd District
Political and government experience: Elected, U.S. House of Representatives, 1994, re-elected 1996, 1998; former executive director, federal Council of Competitiveness; former special assistant to Vice President Dan Quayle; former White House special assistant for domestic affairs; former special assistant to U.S. attorney general
Education: Bachelor's degree, Yale College, University of Chicago Law School
Family: Wife, one child
Running mate: State Sen. J. Murray Clark, RIndianapolis
Contact: (317) 951-4990; RCollins@DavidMcIntosh.org
David McIntosh, who visited Jeffersonville earlier this year to promote his transportation plans, has vowed that if he wins the governor's race, he'll cut residential property taxes. If not, he says he won't seek re-election.