A major power shift among Indiana political leaders might mean we’ll feel the impact here. Late Thursday afternoon, a majority of Democratic state representatives voted to remove House Minority Leader B. Pat Bauer (D – South Bend) from his leadership position.
It’s the second time in two weeks Democrats have tried to oust their minority leader because the first time, July 13, they could not get a quorum. 23 members of the 40-member caucus attended a second meeting Thursday in Lafayette.
Cracks in the Democratic party started to surface nearly a year-and-a-half ago when Bauer led about three dozen Democrats to Urbana, Illinois, protesting the GOP position on Right-to-Work legislation.
“If he’s willing to negotiate, I’ll come back and negotiate,” Bauer said in Urbana in February 2011.
“That seems to be just one in a series of divisions that only further divide us instead of bringing us together,” countered Rep. Kreg Battles (D – Vincennes) in Indianapolis a week later.
It caused a virtual shutdown of the state legislature.
“The opportunity costs of the last two weeks have taken a serious toll on the taxpayers,” said Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R – Indianapolis) of the Democrats in Urbana in March 2011.
Instead of going after Republicans, several members of Bauer’s own party turned on him. Rep. Ryan Dvorak, also of South Bend, claims efforts to convince Bauer to let fellow Democrats help only pushed him further away and led to unkept promises, such as not making changes he agreed to make.
Wednesday, Bauer called his Statehouse office his “war room,” claiming he’s being persecuted for lawmaker ethics legislation he enacted and voting against Right-to-Work.
“They’re creating the problem then pointing to me, because if I say up, they say down,” Bauer told reporters Wednesday.
But what does the caucus’ decision mean for South Bend?
“One thing it means for this area is that one of the most influential people in the state has lost a lot of that influence and the power shifts from South Bend now, at least in the interim, to a new Democratic leader from Hammond,” said WSBT political analyst Jack Colwell.
And why should you care?
Colwell said he’s not sure our area will feel too many effects, but the change in leadership could affect funding.
“Pat Bauer has been instrumental in getting funds for [several] projects in this area. Now, without the clout of leadership, he might not be able to do that,” Colwell said.
While this apparently marks the end of a long stretch of leadership for Bauer, it’s not the end of his career. He still represents South Bend in the House of Representatives and is running unopposed for another term in November. When that term begins, he’ll be the longest serving legislator in the history of the General Assembly.