INDIANAPOLIS | A dramatically shrunken caucus of Indiana House Democrats will decide Thursday whether their leadership looks to the future or the past.
The Times has learned state Rep. Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, who was removed as House Democratic leader this summer due to his dictatorial style, is actively seeking restoration to his former leadership post.
Opposing him is a core group of six Democratic representatives, including state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, who became leader after Bauer was deposed.
They plan to elect as leader state Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, during a party meeting Thursday afternoon. Lawson would become Pelath's deputy, but with more responsibility than that position traditionally entails.
Leadership authority also would be shared by other House Democrats instead of being concentrated, as it once was, nearly entirely in Bauer's hands, according to representatives familiar with the plan.
Democrats control just 31 of the 100 seats in the Indiana House. As recently as the 2010 session, Democrats had 52 members and the majority.
Following Tuesday's elections, House Republicans now enjoy a walkout-proof majority as their 69 members are two more than required to take legislative action even if the Democrats don't show up.
Bauer led Democratic walkouts during the 2012 and 2011 legislative sessions to stop passage of Indiana's right-to-work law. Republicans not only enacted right-to-work but also grew their majority by slamming Democrats in campaign ads for "walking off the job."
On Wednesday, House Republicans meeting at the Statehouse reaffirmed their existing leadership team, including House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.
In the Senate, Democrats chose state Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, as their leader, replacing state Sen. Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, who could not seek re-election while running for lieutenant governor.
Senate Republicans, who maintained control of 37 out of 50 seats, picked Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne, to continue as their leader.