HPI Analysis: Lawson replaces Bauer as House top Dem
Thursday, July 26, 2012 2:31 PM
By BRIAN A. HOWEY
VINCENNES - The legendary B. Patrick Bauer was replaced as Indiana House Democratic leader on Thursday, ending a decade-long leadership rein that saw him knock heads with governors, Republicans and members of his own party.
House Democrats tried to relieve Bauer of his caucus campaign duties on June 28, then met again on July 13 where they failed to muster a quorum. But a quorum was established at a Lafayette IBEW hall on a hot Thursday afternoon and without Bauer and much of the caucus in attendance, was replaced by State Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond.
"“The majority of our members have spoken,” said Lawson, who has served as floor leader for the past two years. “We met, discussed, and decided to take steps to move our party forward, including making a change in our leadership. After serving Indiana House District 1 since 1998, I’m honored to be placed in this position at such a critical time for our party.”
Lawson is a 24-year veteran of the Hammond Police Department, becoming the first female captain to serve the department after working as a patrol officer and a member of the sex crimes and domestic violence divisions. The knowledge and experience she gained in those capacities has helped influence much of the legislation she has championed.
“I didn’t like the way they went about this process. I thought it was pretty ugly. But they came out with a good person to move on, somebody I felt would be a good floor leader. So they emulated my choice for a leader,” Bauer told reporters after Lawson's election.
Bauer vowed to elect new Democrats to the House. “After today, I hope we’ll get back to the business of helping members retain their seats and helping candidates be victorious in their elections,." Bauer said. "We must get back to a unified effort of supporting all of our great candidates and members. They all have wonderful backgrounds. These people deserve our support after giving so much of their time and effort."
Lawson becomes the first female to head a House caucus.
“Pat has done many positive things over the course of his leadership term, doing a great job of securing funding for schools and leading efforts to assist many of the underprivileged and underserved around the state,” said Lawson. “I don’t want to take anything away from his successes, but when the members of our caucus look for leadership, they have decided to go in a different, more positive direction.”
Hoosier Republicans were somber about the change. Chairman Eric Holcomb said, "If this stands, we're sorry to see Pat Bauer go."
Indiana Democratic Party Chair Dan Parker issued the following statement regarding the caucus meeting today where Indiana House Democrats elected State Rep. Linda Lawson as House Democratic Leader:
"In accordance with today's vote, we congratulate Rep. Lawson as the new leader of the House Democratic caucus. A majority of the members of the caucus have spoken. We respect their decision, and we will support Rep. Lawson as she leads the caucus forward. We also want to salute former House Democratic Leader Pat Bauer for his service to the caucus and at the Statehouse. He has been a strong voice for our party during both prosperous and difficult times, and he has always advocated for working Hoosiers."
Bauer had resisted the move, saying in a rambling press conference in his near empty Statehouse office that the challenge was "atrocious" and "destructive." Lake County Democratic Chairman Thomas McDermott Jr., said in a Facebook posting today that "change like this is sorely needed."
Around 3 p.m. at least 21 Democrats gathered: Pelath, Fry, Neizgodski, Riecken, Dembowski, White, Welch, Brown, Sullivan, Day, DeLaney, Lawson, Grubb, VanDenburgh, Pierce, Moseley, Dvorak, Klinker, Dobis and Reske. At least 21 need to gather for a quorum. Expected to attend was another so-called conspirator that included Rep. Terri Austin.
Lawson missed the July 13 attempted coup due to back problems. Bauer said that unless the caucus chair - State Rep. Vanessa Summers - called the caucus, the result would not be valid. Sources said Summers called the June 28 caucus. She later announced she was backing Bauer.
McDermott, who is also mayor of Hammond, posted on Facebook, "I hate to see our House Democratic Caucus fighting like this only months before our November elections, but a change like this is sorely needed in my opinion."
McDermott added, "Rep. Pat Bauer has had a great career spanning decades in the Indiana General Assembly, and will surely be remembered as a historical figure in that building. However, it is without question that he has lost the confidence in his own caucus. It is also without question that members within his own caucus are planning to replace him, maybe even as soon as today."
McDermott continued, "If this were to happen, I cannot think of a better person to lead our party out of this turmoil that State Rep. Linda Lawson. She's experienced, she's tough, she's smart and she has the confidence of her colleagues. Although this coup's timing is very poorly planned, if Rep. Linda Lawson were to be chosen as the leader of the House Democratic Caucus, I cannot imagine a better person in charge."
An earlier coup attempt took place on June 28 when the caucus tried to wrestle Bauer's House campaign duties (and bank account) away. The NWI Times reported in today's edition that State Rep. Charlie Brown said that Lawson will serve as interim leader through the Nov. 6 general election. A permanent leader will be selected at a party meeting after the election, he said.
Key players in the revolt include (lower tier, from left Reps. Pelath, Lawson, Ed DeLaney, Terri Austin, Charlie Brown and Matt Pierce.
Sources say holding the caucus in Lafayette and away from Bauer's Statehouse warren will be an easier drive for much of the caucus based in Northern and Central Indiana. The caucus's southern flank was decimated in the 2010 elections when a Democratic House majority was reduced to 40 seats. Caucus and Democratic Party sources say that despite polling showing State Reps. Bob Bischoff, Paul Robertson and Sandra Blanton losing by big margins, Bauer steered resources into those races, while State Reps. Ron Herrell, Joe Pearson, John Barnes, Russ Stilwell and Bob Dieg in HD76 all lost by small margins. I
t was a prelude to the decimation of the Democratic Party's constituency when Republicans rammed through Right to Work, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and sprawling education reforms.
Bauer tried to rally his labor allies, receiving an "endorsement" from the Teamsters this week. Bauer also described himself as "folicly impaired," a reference to his famous toupee.
But further evidence of Bauer coming "unhinged" and detached from reality was his effort to recruit a candidate to oppose State Rep. Tom Dermody (R-LaPorte) in the backyard of key challenger, State Rep. Scott Pelath. Sources tell HPI that longtime political veterans like the current county chair John Jones, former county chair Shaw Friedman and Rep. Pelath were hesitant to field a candidate unless it was a "Tier 1 candidate" who could successfully compete with Dermody in dollars and name recognition.
"Let's face it, to beat Dermody, you need all hands on deck," said one observer. "With Dermody one of only four R's voting against Right to Work, much of organized labor was going to sit on their hands. Some labor leaders were even going to work for Dermody. All of the planets have got to line up right to beat Tom Dermody. I don't care how much Bauer thinks a baseline vote matters-he doesn't know bupkus of what goes on in LaPorte and Starke Counties and we weren't going to beat Dermody this cycle."
As Bauer met in his near-empty Statehouse office, he said he wasn't moving out in anticipation of the vote: he was simply replacing personal items with what he said would be new "communications" equipment.
Developing . . .