Monday, November 8, 2010
What to Do For Indiana Democrats?
With Evan Bayh now out of office and no control over any state office or either side of the General Assembly, Democrats have to be asking…who’s in charge of the party?
The Indiana Democratic Party failed to claim even the Secretary of State’s Office with a strong candidate vs. a guy that is, frankly, an accused felon. The IDP did help turn Indiana blue in 2008, but it didn’t turn those results into a win for Jill Long Thompson in the Governor’s race. I don’t know if Dan Parker can survive the aftermath of 2010 or if he will even want to continue as Party Chair into the future.
Bayh is also damaged following this election. The former-guy-who-could-do-no-wrong is now being partially blamed by Democrats for what happened Tuesday. He's taken heat on TV from Rachel Maddow and others for turning his back on his own party.
I am interested to see what Bayh will do when he makes his decision whether or not to run for Governor in 2012. I know more than one Democrat that’s promising to sit out the Governor’s race if he does run. That only likely elects somebody like Mike Pence.
So, who emerges as the head of the party? Both Rep. Pat Bauer and Sen. Vi Simpson, the presumptive Democratic caucus leaders in the House and Senate, have few bullets in their guns to stave off a Republican attack on many traditionally Democratic constituency groups and the public school system. That weakens their ability to lead the party.
Terry Curry probably becomes the state’s most powerful Democrat with the position of Marion County Prosecutor. Since lawsuits can be filed against state government only in Marion County, the Marion County Prosecutor many times gets the duty of investigating corruption there. This is why Mitch Daniels poured thousands of dollars into the race to elect Mark Massa. He didn’t want anyone looking over his shoulder. Curry will be a good watchdog and steward of that office, but he is likely to be too busy to be the guiding light of the party.
The bench right now is short. Ed Treacy might be an option, but I just don't see him leaving the Marion County Chairmanship before taking back the City-County Council and the Mayor's Office. There are other options as well, but I think the status quo will, believe it or not, stay in place.
Parker, whom I like personally, is connected with Evan Bayh and has been for years. As long as Bayh wants to run for Governor, I think you'll still find Dan Parker as the chairman of the party, if he wants to be. Parker has been chair since 2004. I just don't know if there is anyone short of Treacy out there to challenge him and get it done with the backing of Evan Bayh.
I guess that means that rank-and-file Democrats need to convince Bayh that he needs to stay home in 2012 and not run. That might be tougher to do than anyone thinks. Dems like Jonathan Weinzapfel and Roy Dominguez had good starts at running for Governor. Suddenly, they backed off after Bayh decided to leave the Senate.
Bayh says his decision will come around New Year's. Even with Democrats seemingly outside his window with hot oil and pitchforks, there's a long time to mollify the masses. If Governor Daniels starts going against his early promise for bi-partisanship, you may find Dems waxing romantic about the two-term Governor who actually did a pretty good job as an executive. I still think the most liberal of Dems will find a Bayh 2012 run hard to swallow.
The struggle for control of the IDP will either be a non-story or a battle royale! All will be answered in time. In the meantime, it's time to turn the page forward to 2011.