Some House Democrats say there is increasing frustration about the way their caucus is being led, and that growing unrest could leave Pat Bauer out as leader.
An attempt to oust South Bend Democrat Pat Bauer from his position atop the caucus materialized last week, but that attempt fizzled after not enough caucus members could reach an agreement.
North Vernon Democrat Dave Cheatham says members have been vocal about their concerns in caucus.
“There were just some issues that were discussed about how the campaign’s been running and how the need to share leadership abilities and duties,” he says.
Indianapolis Democrat Ed DeLaney says despite efforts to help Bauer with campaign strategy, it appears Bauer continues to reject that assistance. And DeLaney says the decision as to whether Bauer stays or goes as caucus leader can’t be dragged out.
“We need to get our agenda together and make our decisions about how we’re running this campaign in the next week,” he says. “I think anything longer than that is not helpful.”
DeLaney says the caucus as a whole needs to move off a defensive position and develop a more forward-looking agenda. If Bauer is replaced, DeLaney says he’s eager for young leadership to take the 68-year old’s place.
Republicans in the Indiana House say if Democrats choose to replace Pat Bauer as the leader of their caucus, it could herald decreased partisanship in the chamber.
Columbus Representative Milo Smith says he heard rumblings as far back as the start of the 2010 session that Pat Bauer might be removed from the job of minority leader after Democrats not only lost their majority in the House, but fell to a 20-seat deficit. That position has been good for the GOP, so Smith says the status quo would be okay with him.
“Selfishly speaking, I hope they don’t make a change,” says Milo Smith (R-Columbus). “If, in fact, Pat – Representative Bauer – can be blamed for the loss of Democrat members in the House.”
Carmel Republican Jerry Torr agrees.
“Quite frankly, I think it would take away a little bit of a political advantage,” he says.
But Torr faults Bauer for what he sees as the increasingly partisan nature of the House.
“It’s seemed to deteriorate quite a bit under Bauer’s leadership, both as speaker and now as minority leader,” he says. “And I believe that right now it’s probably as bad – it’s certainly as bad as I’ve ever seen it.”
Smith, though, says he has worked with Bauer on a number of pieces of legislation and has never found him to be needlessly partisan in their political relationship.
Bauer could not be reached for comment.