Rep. B. Patrick Bauer, (D) South Bend is adjusting to the new role he’ll play in the Indiana General Assembly, now that his lost his “leading role.”
“I can play any role, do anything to help this community and continue to build Indiana,” Rep. Bauer said from the porch of his South Bend home.
Yesterday, the Democratic House Caucus voted to remove Bauer as minority leader.
“In my first ten years, I won every Isaac Walton League award, Legislator of the Year award, created the first phosphate bill in the nation, which is now a worldwide ban on phosphates.” Rep. Bauer said he was ready to return to the rank and file.
Bauer spent the past 10 years as the leader of the house Democrats, serving both as Speaker of the House and House Minority Leader. Prior to that, Bauer spent 18 years as the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
When times were good, Bauer brought many millions of dollars’ worth of state construction projects back to South Bend, like those on the campuses of IUSB and Ivy Tech.
“When I first got in that role, Marion County dominated,” said Bauer. “Because they had two very powerful senators.”
Bauer made it his mission to spread the state’s wealth beyond the state capital and he succeeded.
“He's actually downstate a number of legislators are jealous of what he's done for the community,” said Terry Miller, a former lobbyist for the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce.
But the good times lasted only as long as the Democratic house majority, and Bauer calls the 2010 mid-term elections the worst Democrats have seen since the Civil War. Just 40 house Democrats survived.
“So that was a big hit and a big shock to go from the majority to that number but we managed to fight some good fights, but it drained us,” said Bauer.
“I really thought that he would, as long as he wanted to serve, would serve in that role,” said former lobbyist Rebecca Bonham, “I do think the walkout two years ago was a turning point.”
Bauer did what he felt must be done to spark a Democratic comeback, but in the end, a majority of the caucus members felt it wasn’t enough.
“They’re unhappy they couldn’t get what they could before in the majority and so you know you are the target,” said Bauer, who called the minority leader’s position one of the toughest jobs in the world.
Bauer left the door open for a possible comeback of his own, that would return him to a leadership position. “I got some great friends that called and said hey, as long as you’re inside that chamber, you’re in the game.”
It took at least 21 votes to oust Bauer as the leader of the House Democrats. According to Bauer, 10 of those who cast ballots are members who are retiring and are not running for re-election in November. That means they won’t be there next January when the next General Assembly is seated, and another leadership vote is possible.
In the meantime, to Terry Miller, Bauer’s ouster signals that it will be a long time before St. Joseph County has another powerful friend in the legislature. “We’re in a very serious problem here in St. Joe County in not having a strong enough leadership downstate to get the type of projects and things that we need to advance our economy, St. Joe County is not doing well economically, we’re down in the number of jobs.”
Rebecca Bonham added, “I hope that the divisions aren’t so deep among even his own party, that St. Joe County is not able to get the things that have come into it because of his former power, I hope that doesn’t happen, it certainly could though.”