Shakeup in Ind. House Dem leadership could put Hammond rep on top

2012-07-25T14:40:00Z 2012-12-31T09:38:04Z Shakeup in Ind. House Dem leadership could put Hammond rep on topBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, is poised to become interim leader of the Indiana House Democrats on Thursday following a planned vote to remove state Rep. Pat Bauer as House minority party leader.

According to state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, 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.

Lawson would not speak on the record about the expected leadership change. The former Hammond police captain and 14-year state representative currently serves as assistant leader of the 40 House Democrats.

Brown, Lawson and state Rep. Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, are part of a group of House Democrats disaffected by Bauer's leadership style and concerned about his campaign strategy.

Democrats lost their 52-48 House majority following the 2010 elections and could see their membership further eroded this year because of new district lines drawn in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

If House Republicans can reach 67 members, it would prevent Democrats from using the walkout tactic they employed in 2011 and 2012 to stall action on right-to-work and other legislation they said would harm the state. The 100-member House can take legislative action so long as two-thirds of representatives are in attendance.

One top Democrat said a new leader will help the party caucus develop new policy ideas and reach out to new voters. That person said House Democrats are eager to hit the campaign trail, once Bauer is out, to try to win back control of the House.

Brown said at least 21 Democratic representatives must agree to remove Bauer, D-South Bend. He said he's confident the votes are there to oust the former House speaker.

"It appears as though the majority of the members of the House Democratic caucus are screaming for a change in leadership," Brown said. 

But Bauer isn't going quietly. During an unusually long 40-minute Statehouse news conference Wednesday, Bauer said the effort to remove him is unnecessary, unfair, illegal, destructive to the party, "distractful" and disrespectful.

He insisted House Democrats cannot hold a meeting because state Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, the caucus chairwoman and a Bauer ally, did not call for one.

Bauer repeatedly refused to say how he'd respond if a majority of the caucus announces Thursday they have chosen a new leader.

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