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House GOP taps Lehman to succeed McMillin as majority leader

October 6, 2015

House Republicans on Tuesday elected a socially conservative lawmaker from northern Indiana to replace former House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, who abruptly resigned last week citing "mistakes" that needed to be remedied with his family.

Acknowledging majority Republicans had "kind of a rough week," House Speaker Brian Bosma announced Rep. Matt Lehman's new role shortly after emerging from a closed-door caucus meeting at the Statehouse.

"He's not a flashy person, and that's what our caucus needs right now," Bosma said.

Lehman struck a tone of humility in brief remarks to reporters.

"I'm from the small town of Berne, Indiana. Not a lot comes from Berne, Indiana, but I do," Lehman said.

Lehman, an insurance agent by trade who is also a Civil War re-enactor, has served in the Legislature since 2008, where he chairs the House insurance committee. He is married with three children and attends Berne Evangelical Church.

McMillan, 38, surprised colleagues when he stepped down last Tuesday, later posting on Facebook that he was giving up his seat to focus on his family. It came a week after he sent a text message to acquaintances, apologizing for "anything offensive" sent to them from his cellphone, without elaborating.

He has not responded to phone calls, voicemails or texts from the AP.

Sources told IBJ that McMillin stepped down because a sexually explicit video was discovered on his mobile phone.

The resignation left Republicans with the embarrassment of having to replace a charismatic and outspoken leader who quickly rose to the second-most powerful position in the House despite previous brushes with ethics.

Among the ethical questions McMillin faced was an accusation that in 2005, while a county prosecutor in Ohio, he had a sexual relationship with a victim in a domestic violence case he was handling. McMillin acknowledged the relationship but said it occurred only after he resigned.

Also, two years ago, media reports said he had steered a $600,000 grant to a hometown business in Brookville that he previously owned but later transferred to family members and friends. The grant was cancelled after his ties were revealed.

McMillin's "conduct was a compete distraction from important issues, and he did the right thing in focusing on his family," Bosma said Tuesday.

Unlike McMillin, Lehman is not known for being outspoken during legislative floor debates.

But Bosma said he is confident that will change.

"I'm fairly confident that a middle-aged dog can learn a new trick or two," Bosma said.

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