The Quayle Family is Back

Ross Becker

This entry in my digital notebook is filled with history and a personal story about a family I have covered, as a journalist, for more than 3 decades.

Last night I watched as a young politician, Ben Quayle, fought off a stable of challengers to win the Republican nomination for Congress in Arizona. It's the 3rd congressional district, a right-leaning district in the Phoenix area and he will now face the Democrat challenger in November. If he wins, another Quayle is going to Washington.

I watched because it was not the first time I watched Ben Quayle on a victorious election night. The last time was when his father was celebrating an historic congressional win in 1980. Then Congressman Dan Quayle, riding the coattails of a Reagan wave, beat long-time Indiana U.S. Senator Birch Bayh. The celebration was huge and staged in the auditorium of the Athenaeum, an old building in downtown Indianapolis that used to be a German beer hall in the 1800's.
The Quayle family was well-know in Indiana. Dan's father had money and power collected over the years as a newspaper publisher.

I was a young reporter at WTHR-TV and I was assigned that election night to the Quayle victory headquarters. As the returns came in, we began to realize this victory had major significance. It was a huge defeat for a well-respected Indiana politician by a young, somewhat inexperienced newcomer. We laid the TV cables into the room and positioned our “live” cameras near the stage so that when Dan Quayle showed up we were ready to show our viewers this exciting moment for the GOP in Indiana. I was ready, too to ask the right questions and share with our viewers the history making moment.

When he walked in, the victorious Dan Quayle was not alone. He was with his wife and their two children. All were perfectly dressed and ready. One of those children was little Ben. He was just 4 years old and holding his father's hand. I pushed my way through the crowd to get right next to the Quayles. I still remember Marilyn smiling at me because she remembered me from the long campaign trail and all those stops around the Hoosier state.

When soon-to-be Senator Quayle stopped talking to the crowd, I pushed closer with my microphone and he picked Ben up into his arms and I asked him some silly question about his feelings that night and I recall he said he was proud of what he had accomplished and wanted to go to Washington and make a difference for the next generation referring to Ben and children like him.

Dan Quayle, as you may know, went on to serve in the Senate and was then selected as Vice President by George Bush. The wonder boy of the Republican Party in the early 1980's turned into the whipping boy of the media during that vice presidency. Of course, several gaffes helped fuel that media fire.

I remember that night of victory in Indianapolis years and years ago with a smile. I did a good job doing my job. I remember the excitement and the innocent look on the face of a little boy in his victorious father's arms.

Now that boy is a man. Either I am getting old or Ben Quayle is very young to be running for office. Maybe both things are true.

Categories: Becker’s Digital Notebook