LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Indiana House Democrats ousted Rep. Patrick Bauer as their leader on Thursday amid criticism of his handling of campaign fundraising and spending heading into the November elections.
Rep. Linda Lawson of Hammond was chosen to replace Bauer, who had led the Democratic caucus for more than a decade. The move was announced during a meeting attended by 23 of the 40 members of the caucus.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Thursday's vote is binding. Bauer said Wednesday it wasn't legitimate under caucus rules, but Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, disputed that assertion.
"Is there a set rule in stone? No. There's no set rule in stone," he said shortly before the meeting.
Bauer, who did not attend Thursday's meeting, couldn't be reached immediately for comment.
Bauer served as House speaker during most of his decade leading Democrats. But many House Democrats are unhappy with his handling of campaign fundraising and spending heading into November, where they're hoping to shore up their position after bruising losses in 2010 gave Republicans a 60-40 majority in the House.
Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma has said he believes the GOP can win 67 seats in November. That would give Republicans a super majority allowing them to conduct business without any Democrats present.
If that happens, it would remove the last vestiges of clout held by Democrats, who, under Bauer, staged consecutive walkouts in 2011 and 2012 in an effort to block divisive right-to-work legislation. The five-week walkout succeeded in blocking the legislation in 2011, but periodic walkouts failed to derail the measure this year, and Gov. Mitch Daniels signed it into law. He said Wednesday that the caucus began to splinter during the 2011 walkout, when some members stayed in an Urbana, Ill., hotel while others remained in Indianapolis.
Bauer said some members had criticized him for being "too partisan." But he said he had only been partisan on important issues that dealt with working families, children and education, and that Republicans were the real political obstacle. He said he still believes the issues are on Democrats' side.
Bauer said he's met with caucus members several times to discuss their concerns.
"There's general frustration being in the minority," he said.