House Minority Leader Pat Bauer said Wednesday he will not resign and urged fellow Democrats, including those unhappy with his leadership, to remain united until they see what happens in the November election.
"I was elected until November. If they want to cause disruption or whatever, that's their choice. But I think united we stand, divided we fall," the South Bend lawmaker told The Associated Press.
Many House Democrats are unhappy with Bauer's handling of campaign fundraising and spending heading into November, where they're hoping to shore up their position after bruising losses in 2010 gave Republicans a 60-40 majority in the House.
Bauer has led Indiana's House Democrats for a decade and spent most of that time as House speaker. But the 2010 losses and voter discontent heading into this year's general election have raised fears that Democrats could lose further ground.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has said he believes the GOP, which controlled redistricting after its 2010 victories, can win 67 seats in November. That would give the party a super majority, allowing it to conduct business even if no Democrats are present.
If that happens, it would remove the last vestiges of clout held by Democrats, who, under Bauer, staged consecutive walkouts in 2011 and 2012 in an effort to block divisive right-to-work legislation. The five-week walkout succeeded in blocking the legislation in 2011, but periodic walkouts failed to derail the measure this year, and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it into law.
Bauer said the caucus began to splinter during the 2011 walkout, when some members stayed in an Urbana, Ill., hotel while others remained in Indianapolis.
He also said some members had criticized him for being "too partisan." But he said he had only been partisan on important issues that dealt with working families, children and education, and that Republicans were the real political obstacle. He said he still believes the issues are on Democrats' side.
Bauer said he's met with caucus members several times to discuss their concerns.
"There's general frustration being in the minority," he said.
During a news conference at the Statehouse Wednesday afternoon, he called the leadership fight both personal and "devastating" to Democrats as a whole. He said it has already derailed some fundraising.
"I don't think a no-confidence vote at this time would be a true test of where we are or where we are going," Bauer said. "It's not good for the party. It's not good for the institution."
Thursday's gathering would be the second time this month that Bauer's colleagues have attempted to remove him as their leader. An attempt to caucus and possibly vote him out earlier this month failed when opponents couldn't get enough members together for a vote. Even if his critics muster enough votes Thursday, Bauer said, the vote wouldn't matter.
"I'm not worried about tomorrow because I don't think it's a legitimate deal," Bauer said Wednesday.
Rep. John Bartlett said there is no provision for such a vote in caucus rules.
"It's a hanging," Bauer said.
Though he said he wouldn't resign, Bauer acknowledged that it would be a concern if a majority of his caucus expresses no confidence in his leadership.
"I'll have to judge in that situation," he said.
Bauer, the son of a former state senator, has served in the Indiana House since 1970. He's often clashed with Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, once prompting Daniels to refer to him as a car bomber.
Daniels, when asked last week about efforts to remove Bauer, said he "wouldn't bet against him."
State Rep. Bill Crawford, a veteran member of the Democratic caucus who is not seeking re-election, said the disastrous showing in the 2010 elections is driving most of the anger against Bauer but questioned the wisdom of it.
"Having an open family argument, I think, hurts in the long term," said Crawford, who doesn't plan to vote Thursday because he thinks newly elected Democrats should choose their leader.
Bauer said he's ready to "fight the good fight, whatever that fight is."
Bauer said even if he loses his leadership post, he still would run for re-election to his House seat.
"I love being a legislator," he said.