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December 24, 2012

Daniels era obliterates Democrats

From a political perspective, the decade-long "Mitch Daniels era" has been devastating for Indiana Democrats.

Gov. Daniels returned to the state from the White House in 2002 and with the help of Bob Grand, Jim Kittle Jr., and Randall Tobias, an engineered coup at the Indiana Republican Party began a political sequence that will reshape Indiana for at least the next decade.

While it was Justice Robert Rucker who cast a tipping vote in the Indiana Supreme Court calling for a redo in the 2003 East Chicago mayoral elections, the Republican assault on the Robert Pastrick Lake County Democratic machine continued in the Daniels era. Republican Secretary of State Todd Rokita conducted a culling of voter files that eliminated tens of thousands of cemetery voters in the biggest Democratic bastion in the state. Northern Indiana District Attorney Joseph Van Bokkelen was another key player, taking aim at the corruption within the Lake County Democratic core.

Daniels defeated Gov. Joe Kernan in 2004 after spending 15 months crisscrossing Indiana in RV1, visiting scores of Hoosier cities and towns. During his first full day in office, he ended collective bargaining that began what would be a systemic assault of organized labor.

In his book, Keeping the Republic, Daniels also took on unions such as AFSCME, SEIU, and the National Education Association.

"My team saw the nakedness of government union power politics during my re-election year of 2008," Daniels explained.

The SEIU had given his opponent, Jill Long Thompson, $850,000 in one check.

"This was the largest donation given to a political candidate in Indiana history, and the SEIU promised it would do 'whatever it takes' to help the candidate win the general election," Daniels writes. "The UAW and AFSCME hung back for months, finally chipping in a fraction of what they had customarily given to Democratic gubernatorial candidates."

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