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House Democrats plan to pick new leader

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House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said Wednesday that efforts to oust him from his leadership post at a meeting Thursday will be to no avail because the meeting was not legally called and will therefore be unofficial. But Bauer, joined at a press conference Wednesday by his wife, Karen, wouldn’t say what he would do his colleagues vote at the meeting to replace him. - PHOTO BY LESLEY WEIDNEBENER, THE STATEHOUSE FILE
  • Photo by Lesley Weidnebener, The Statehouse File
  • House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said Wednesday that efforts to oust him from his leadership post at a meeting Thursday will be to no avail because the meeting was not legally called and will therefore be unofficial. But Bauer, joined at a press conference Wednesday by his wife, Karen, wouldn’t say what he would do his colleagues vote at the meeting to replace him.

By Lesley Weidenbener

House Minority Leader Pat Bauer, D-South Bend, said Wednesday that a Democratic caucus planned for Thursday is "illegitimate, ill-advised and untimely" and can't lead to his ouster as the group's leader because it wasn't called by the caucus chair.

Bauer also said efforts to change the group's leadership now will be "devastating" for Democrats in the November election. Already, Republicans have a 60-40 majority in the House and are just seven seats away from being able to meet without Democrats even showing up.

The internal fight has "been so disruptive," Bauer said. "We might be fighting for a quorum instead of fighting for a majority."

Bauer's comments came amid reports that he had cleaned out the Statehouse office on Tuesday night, just two days before House Democrats were to meet to choose a new leader in part out of concern about those upcoming elections.

But Bauer said he's not giving up the post or anticipating defeat.

The Democrats who planned the meeting - which is to take place Thursday in Lafayette - did not return phone calls Wednesday. But Bauer and his supporters acknowledged the meeting.

Rep. John Bartlett, D-Indianapolis, who appeared with Bauer at a press conference in the leader's office, said the caucus has "no vehicle to remove a leader." He said the caucus traditionally appoints someone to the post for a two-year term.

And Bartlett said that an official caucus can only be called by Minority Caucus Chair Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, who has been supporting Bauer as calls have mounted for him to step down. On Wednesday, Summers declined to comment about the issue.

Instead, Minority Floor Leader Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, called Thursday's caucus meeting. Bauer said he would not attend, although he acknowledged that some members of the caucus were looking to make a change.

"There's frustration and anger," Bauer said. "Some people think I'm too old and some people think I'm too short." He called many of the attacks against him personal. He was joined by his wife, Karen Bauer, who said her husband can do nothing about genetics.

And Bauer blamed what he called "outside forces" for the problems in his caucus. For the last two years, Bauer has led controversial boycotts of House business to try to stop a GOP effort to pass anti-union legislation. Bauer said some of the unions were split over how to handle the issue and some are now trying to defeat him.

"I supported unity among the unions then," he said. "It's just like I support unity in my caucus now."

Although Bauer talked to reporters in his office, he acknowledged that he had taken some "breakable objects" out of the space because "it's turning into a war room." But Bauer said he left "my computer and communication devices because we'll need to have a communications center."

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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