Elected Officials and Legislature and State Government and Elections and Politics and Government & Economic Development and Government

Indiana House Dems boot Bauer, install Lawson as leader

July 26, 2012

Patrick Bauer, who stared down Gov. Mitch Daniels and other Republicans during his stormy tenure leading Democrats in the Indiana House, was ousted Thursday by disgruntled members of his caucus who said they needed new leadership to regain seats in the General Assembly.

The legislator who has spent 42 years in the Statehouse didn't attend the meeting and learned of the results through Twitter. He quickly conceded defeat and threw his support behind his successor, Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond.

"There's no question it was painful because these were people who I helped get elected," Bauer said after the vote to make Lawson the new minority leader.

House Democrats now have about three months before potentially grueling general elections in November. Democrats are outnumbered 60-40 in the House and could be furthered marginalized if Republicans win the 67 seats necessary to overcome stall tactics like the ones Bauer used in 2011 and 2012 to fight right-to-work legislation.

House Republicans drew new House districts this year that fortified their chances of picking up more seats in November.

Members of the caucus said they hoped Bauer's removal would help them raise money and energize support.

Lawson said Democrats had many reasons for removing Bauer. They wanted Democrats running for office to focus on new issues such as the federal health care law and higher education, but what it came down to, for most of them, was being included in the decision-making.

"Honestly, 40 heads are better than one," Lawson said after Thursday's vote at a union hall.

It was Bauer who found himself boxed out Thursday after a decade of running the caucus, leading them in battles against Daniels as speaker and, while in the majority the last two years, on extended walkouts designed to block right-to-work legislation.

Speaking less than an hour after Indiana's House Democrats voted to replace him, Bauer said he had yet to hear from any of the members who voted for his removal.

Democrats running for the Indiana House now have a new team of leaders helping them through November's elections. Thursday's vote to remove Bauer also signaled a change in what Democrats think will help them win elections.

"It's just two polar opposite strategies," said Rep Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis. "One is one person knows it all, controls it all, decides it all, and has very few meetings. The other model says we try to get the best out of every one of our members — we may have some disagreements, but we have our team approach."

Bauer's ouster occurred during a meeting attended by 23 of the 40 members of the caucus. Afterward, they refused to say how each member had voted.

The group also picked three caucus members to act as deputies to Lawson in running the Democratic House campaigns: Ryan Dvorak of South Bend, Matt Pierce of Bloomington and Craig Fry of Mishawaka.

Many House Democrats were 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 left Republicans with 60 seats.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has said he believes the GOP can win 67 seats in November. That would give Republicans a super majority allowing them to conduct business without any Democrats present.

If that happens, it would remove the last vestiges of clout held by Democrats, who, under Bauer, staged 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 Wednesday that the caucus began to splinter during the 2011 walkout, when some members stayed in an Urbana, Ill., hotel while others remained in Indianapolis.

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