INDIANAPOLIS | House Democrats have chosen two Northwest Indiana representatives to lead their caucus against a supermajority of House Republicans during the 2013 legislative session.
State Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, was elected House Democratic leader Thursday, with state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, selected as Pelath's deputy.
Together they plan to revive a party that controls just 31 of 100 seats in the Republican-dominated chamber.
"We are going to learn to work better. We are going to learn to provide a true alternative vision for how this state should be led," Pelath said. "We're going to critique the majority party when we think they're wrong, but when we think they're right, we're going to be prepared to help."
Pelath said one of his top priorities is developing policies, especially on jobs, that will help Hoosiers, and then doing a better job communicating those policies to citizens.
He said those tasks often were neglected under former House Democratic leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, who was removed over the summer because of his dictatorial style. Bauer sought to regain his leadership post Thursday but didn't come close to mustering the necessary votes.
Lawson said among the issues that will definitely get special attention under the new leadership are those affecting Northwest Indiana.
"Certainly I want to work with my mayor ... and he (Pelath) wants to work with the governing bodies in Porter County and LaPorte to see if there are some things we have absolute need for and then work together to try to implement some of those things," Lawson said. "Between the two of us we've both got some really good ideas about what we want to do."
It won't be easy to win passage of Democratic-sponsored proposals with so few members, but Pelath said he's hoping House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, will work with Democrats even though he can technically govern without them.
"When we have this sort of supermajority/superminority-type situation, it's possible that there may need to be more bipartisanship and not less," Pelath said. "We have to make the chamber work, and we can never forget it's ultimately about the people."
In a statement released Thursday night, Bosma congratulated Pelath and pledged to "keep the lines of communication open and do my best to make him and his leadership team effective leaders of their caucus."