Merritt resigning after 30 years in state Senate


A longtime Republican state lawmaker who was unsuccessful last year in his bid to become mayor of Indianapolis is stepping down from his seat in November.

State Sen. Jim Merritt announced Tuesday that he will resign from the position he’s held since 1990 to “seek other opportunities for service.” He still had two years left in his term.

Merritt is the longest serving caucus chairman, holding that leadership role since 2004. He also served as chair of the Senate Utilities Committee.

His Senate district encompasses Lawrence Township, a small portion of Washington Township, and Fall Creek Township in Hamilton County.

“I’m incredibly thankful to the people of Marion and Hamilton counties who have placed their trust in me and given me the chance to work on so many critical issues for our region and state,” Merritt said in a statement. “It’s hard to step down from a role that I am so grateful to serve in, but I look forward to the opportunity to serve in new capacities in the years ahead.”

Merritt unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Indianapolis last year, losing to Democratic incumbent Joe Hogsett.

After the mayoral race, Merritt told IBJ that he believed his run made him a better senator because he saw firsthand the city’s poverty and crime problems and became more in touch with his constituents.

During his 30 years at the Statehouse, Merritt worked on legislation involving addiction, the opioid crisis, child welfare and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. He authored what became known as the Lifeline Law, which provides immunity for underaged individuals who call 911 for an intoxicated person, and a law that allows Hoosiers to obtain a prescription for Naloxone if someone they know is at risk of an opioid overdose.

A Republican caucus in the district will select Merritt’s replacement.

Former Indianapolis City-County Councilor Michael McQuillen has already expressed interest in the seat. He shared on Twitter that he would be “a conservative voice for Hamilton and Marion counties.”

“I am looking forward to reaching out to Republican precinct leaders in Hamilton and Marion counties, listening to their priorities and concerns and sharing my story,” he said in a text.

Merritt’s resignation will be effective Nov. 4.

“Jim has been a dedicated, hard-working member of our caucus for decades, and he will leave an admirable legacy behind when he steps down,” Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said in a statement. “He has a true servant’s heart and cares deeply about the lives of Hoosiers across the state—especially those who face tough struggles and hardships and are at risk of falling through the cracks. His knowledge, compassion and helpful spirit will truly be missed in the Senate.”

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8 thoughts on “Merritt resigning after 30 years in state Senate

  1. This resignation was predictable. Merritt nearly lost his 2018 election to a Democratic opponent. Bosma in the House similarly underperformed. Both resigned and will have incumbents running in their next respective elections who were never elected.

    The writing was on the wall for both of them.

  2. It’s a common practice (dare I say PLOY) for politicians who don’t plan to run again to resign so that their party- chosen replacement can run as an incumbent and tout their (short) record. I personally feel lied to when someone who came begging for my vote failed to honor his commitment I feel he made to me and the rest of the voters. It seems a frequent occurrence when a politician resigns mid-term they quickly fall into a sweet gig for their next job. I’ll be anxiously watching to see if Sen Merritt has a similar soft landing ahead.

    1. Thats true, but that is establishment politics, for both sides. Republican party in Marion county is a joke. Who even knew Merritt ran, such a pitiful showing.

    2. I believe it was Rob Kendall who said that Jim was so frustrated by the politics in the Statehouse that he felt he could be more effective outside. Unfortunately for me my thought process says he has a Lilly or some other major lobbying gig at a high-falutin law firm waiting on him. Which has been a pet peeve of mine for local, state and national politicians for 40 years. I feel that you should not be able to lobby the government you severed for a minimum of (2) two times as long as you served. In Jim Merritt’s case that would be 60 years from the day he resigned. He should have minimal influence at that point.

  3. I’m relatively new to Indiana, so maybe Sen. Merritt was an outstanding senator for the last 30 years, but judging by his non-campaign for Mayor of Indy and the subsequent wipeout of the Marion County Republican Party in last year’s local election, perhaps its time for some new blood.

    1. Well said! To lose to Hogsett in a landslide is just a disgrace. I never saw a more inept mayoral campaign!

  4. Maybe the joke is on all of us!! Look at the Mayor we got. Maybe a bad Jim Merritt was the best choice. Hogsett is inept. He has proved this over and over again.

  5. I so enjoyed working with Senator Merritt when I served in Mayor Ballard’s administration. I learned a lot from him about the Indiana Senate as we worked on local government reform. He is always kind and has a HUGE heart. Our city and state benefited greatly from his service!

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