INDIANAPOLIS | Northwest Indiana is losing one of its most prominent voices in the Indiana General Assembly.
Ending weeks of speculation, state Rep. Bob Kuzman, D-Crown Point, announced Wednesday he will resign his District 19 seat to take a lobbying position with Indianapolis-based Ice Miller, one of the state's largest law firms.
"I'm going to be a partner at Ice Miller starting immediately and will not be resigning my seat right away, but in the near future," Kuzman said. "The opportunity arose for me to take this new path in life, and I seized the moment."
A legislator since 1996, Kuzman climbed the Democratic leadership ranks in recent years, and he departs as vice chairman of the budget-writing Ways and Means Committee. The ascent brought added responsibilities, which Kuzman says he is shedding to spend more time with his wife, Cheryl, and son, Evan.
"You miss the first crawl, you miss the first walk -- I don't want to miss anymore," Kuzman said. "I want to wake up and be with the family as much as I possibly can."
Kuzman plans to move the family to the Indianapolis area in time for Evan to start kindergarten this fall. The departure also means a new beginning for Democrats in District 19, which is dominated by Crown Point but also extends into Merrillville and Porter County and stretches south into Newton County.
"We're definitely going to miss having him, but we will work hard to fill the seat," said Crown Point Democratic Chairwoman Michelle Fajman. She said it was too soon to name potential replacements, but she assumes there will be no shortage of suitors.
"I've got to start asking around," said Lake County Democratic Chairman Rudy Clay. "We've got to have a good candidate. ... We don't want to lose that seat."
Kuzman considers it "a seat that the Democrats can keep hold of, but obviously it's going to take work." After Kuzman tenders his resignation later this summer, the Indiana Democratic Party will have 30 days to convene a caucus of precinct officials to select a replacement .
House Speaker Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said Democrats should be able to hold the seat next year as they fight to defend their 51-49 majority. Still, he's sad to see Kuzman go.
"I'll miss him. He's a great legislator; he's a good friend," Bauer said. "He did a yeoman's job on the property-tax legislation this year."