DOUG ROSS: Could crime in Gary cue up Bayh-Pence rivalry?

2013-10-11T00:00:00Z DOUG ROSS: Could crime in Gary cue up Bayh-Pence rivalry?By Doug Ross, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

When Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson asked Gov. Mike Pence for immediate assistance from the Indiana State Police, she didn't get what she expected.

She got valuable recommendations on shaking up the Police Department, but the city's immediate need of extra manpower in the midst of a rash of homicides wasn't met.

There's precedent for sending state police troopers to Gary. Evan Bayh did so when he was governor.

When I last talked to Bayh a few months ago, we discussed Gary's crime problem and the need for help from the governor's office. Bayh was all for sending the state police back in so Gary police could focus on those homicides.

So why didn't Pence send troopers to help?

I've heard a lot of speculation about political reasons for Bayh's decision to reinforce the Gary police with state troopers and for Pence's decision to review Gary Police Department operations instead.

The basic argument goes like this: Bayh, of course, is a Democrat, so naturally he would help Gary. Pence is a Republican, so why should he help a city that didn't vote for him? 

I don't buy that theory. Pence is a political animal, as are most elected officials, but he also knows he was elected to represent all of Indiana, not just Republicans.

Politics has played a role in a number of Pence's decisions, but I can't see it tainting his response to a serious public safety concern.

He's a process guy, focused on long-term solutions. It's just that the long-term solution he offered — a scathing report urging big changes in the Gary Police Department — will take time to implement, and the homicides continued in the meantime.

It's interesting to see how Pence and Bayh responded differently to the situation in Gary. It might be cue up a future rivalry between the two.

There's been a lot of speculation about Bayh running for governor in 2016. His sons would be settled by then, and he could return to his Hoosier roots. It would be a race between a moderate Democrat and a fiscally and socially conservative Republican.

Bayh was a popular governor. He has a million-dollar smile and shows a lot of empathy. He told me he misses public service.

Bayh dropped out of the U.S. Senate after being disgusted with how polarized Congress had become, and it has only gotten worse.

The Hoosier Holy Land has become highly polarized, too, with a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly and a very conservative governor, treasurer and attorney general.

Is that the atmosphere Bayh would want to avoid, or will he run for governor and try to put moderates back in control in Indiana?

We'll have to wait and see. 2016 is still far away. But maybe the differing responses to Gary's plea for help is a hint of what to look for in the next gubernatorial race.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Follow him at and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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