RICH JAMES: Costas among nicest politicians I've met

2013-07-28T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Costas among nicest politicians I've metBy Rich James nwitimes.com
July 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I don’t think former state Sen. Bill Costas would have made it in today’s political world.

It hurts to say that.

He was too open and forthright to fit in with politicians today.

He passed away last Tuesday. He was buried yesterday. He was 84.

Bill came into my world in 1981 when he arrived at the Indiana Senate.

He was the newest of the 20 or so legislators I needed to keep an eye on for a few months each year.

It was easy to do with Bill. He never strayed. And he was so, so honest.

I’m told Bill was a very different man when I met him than he was in his earlier years.

He was a businessman who founded Wilco Foods and Costas Foods around Northwest Indiana.

Bill also burned the candle at both ends in his earlier years. Yeah, he lived the good life, so to say.

I’m not sure why, but I was told he tired of that lifestyle and came full circle.

Bill got religion. Some say that makes you a born-again Christian. Maybe so, although I’ve always contended I was born a Christian and still am.

Bill’s votes in the Senate were fairly predictable.

He was part of a band of seven or eight senators who collectively got dubbed the God Squad by the media.

If a piece of legislation was bad, it was because God said so.

While religion dictated many of Bill’s votes, he didn’t wear it on his sleeve.

He voted his conservative conscience because he thought it was the right thing to do, not for political gain.

The best part about Bill — from a reporter’s standpoint — was his honesty. He didn’t mince words.

When asked a question, Bill gave an honest answer, even if it sometimes made him seem a bit naive.

Bill periodically took to the microphone in the Senate. What he had to say came from the heart.

He didn’t do that for political gain, but because he believed in what he was saying. My, that was refreshing.

Bill ran for Congress in 1986, pulling just 26 percent of the vote against incumbent Pete Visclosky. He narrowly lost a bid for a third Senate term in 1988 to Bill Alexa, who now is a judge.

Despite those losses, he ran again for Congress in1990 because he thought if people heard his message, he would win. That was the naive Bill speaking. Visclosky clobbered him again.

While Bill and I were miles apart politically, he was one of the nicest men I’ve ever met in politics.

If today’s conservatives were more like Bill Costas, it would be a better, more productive political world.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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