Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

December 21, 2012

An era ends as Lugar, Daniels move on

The next four weeks end an epic era - two for that matter - in Indiana politics as U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar and Gov. Mitch Daniels prepare to leave elective office for what they say will be the final time.

For the last half century, Lugar and Daniels ushered in profound changes to the Indiana political and policy landscape. It is unlikely that any future tandem of public officials will offer the width and breadth of dramatic policy and the good politics they rendered. Together they polled almost 10 million general election votes (Lugar 7.13 million; Daniels 2.8 million).

 The story of this tandem exit has an intriguing alpha/omega quality to it. Both Lugar and Daniels were spawned out of the L. Keith Bulen political machine. But when it came to an end this year, the GOP machine came stunningly close to seizing up with potential catastrophic results for the party.

"We ran on a very explicit and very detailed agenda," Daniels said. "We did most of it."

He cited "70 odd things" he promised to achieve in 2005 and cited the "skills gap" - the needs of high tech employers and not enough available workers - as an aspect unfulfilled.

"Most of the other factors, we're pretty good at, you know, cost, infrastructure, taxes, and regulatory climate. We're as good as the competition or better on most of those. We clearly aren't there with match of skills and jobs. It's become more visible because of the recession and the non-recovery we're in. With that many people looking for work and that many jobs available, you've got a real problem."

He also cited "opening doors to building a better business climate" as his most important contribution.

"If it does have staying power, it will lead to all the other good things," Daniels said. "It will lead to jobs, therefore to revenues to do the things governments should do. It will underpin the success of the state."

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