By Brian Howey
The Hendricks County Flyer
Mon Dec 24, 2012, 12:54 PM EST
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."
In 2009 - with General Motors and Chrysler teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and liquidation - Daniels backed efforts by Treasurer Richard Mourdock to derail the Chrysler/Fiat merger, and rhetorically was hostile to bailing out the American automakers. Daniels would say in North Manchester that the state wasn't particularly interested in helping to save existing auto plants. From a political standpoint, the eviseration of the United Auto Workers, which had pumped tens of millions of dollars into Democratic gubernatorial campaigns for decades, was a historic opportunity.
While the Obama presidency saved GM and Chrysler, the unions aren't nearly as potent as they were during the Evan Bayh and Frank O'Bannon eras. There is no longer a UAW Region headquartered in Indiana. Unions gave only $2.6 million to the John Gregg gubernatorial campaign in 2012, according to Project Vote Smart, and only $298,500 to the Senate campaign of Joe Donnelly.
Then came the hammer: passage of the right to work legislation in early 2012. Asked last week if right to work had damaged the unions, Daniels said, "No, I'm not aware that it has. That's not its intention."
But many observers believe it has hurt unions and that was the intent.
The other key aspect comes with the 2010 election sequence in which Democrats saw U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh - the man who revived the party between 1986 and '88 - retire. Bayh realized that his fate might have been similar to the defeat U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar suffered this year.
But the other part of 2010 was the erosion of support for Democrats in Southern Indiana, where they lost a number of so-called "legacy" Indiana House seats they had held for generations as Indiana Republicans obliterated a Democrat House majority into a commanding 60-40 edge for themselves.
Two years prior, while Daniels carved out a 58-40 percent re-election victory, he failed to carry a Republican House with him, one of the only times in the past century that a governor couldn't pull a House majority in with him. His Aiming Higher PAC pumped in hundreds of thousands of dollars to help forge that 60-40 majority, which then paved the way for his sprawling education reforms in 2011 and, most importantly, the new legislative and Congressional maps.
That situation only worsened in 2012 when Republicans won 69 seats in the Indiana House, now holding super majorities in the House and Senate as Republican Mike Pence prepares to take the helm. Today, Democrats hold only three of the 11 House districts that touch the Ohio River in what used to be their stronghold.
Democrats are largely compacted into two regions of the state: Marion County and the four-county region that runs from Lake to St. Joseph counties. Twenty-one of the 31 districts held by Democrats are in these areas. But the Democratic clout is eroding even there as Republicans Hal Slager and Rick Niemeyer won Lake County districts and Dale Devon won State Rep. Craig Fry's district in St. Joseph County.
Republicans dominate the Congressional delegation 9-2 in the U.S. House, while winning a small majority of the total votes. Friendly maps will do that for you. Had Mourdock's Senate campaign not imploded, allowing Joe Donnelly to win, the situation could have been worse.
For Hoosier Democrats, the critical question as Mitch Daniels exits to West Lafayette is, who's the next Evan Bayh?
- Brian Howey publishes online at www.howeypolitics.com. Find him on Twitter @hwypol.
When I woke up Saturday morning, I gave a customary online scan of Friday’s sports, mainly for a recap of the Pacers’ home game against Milwaukee.
November 18, 2013
Most people recall where they were upon hearing significant news in their life, whether it was positive or negative. I remember where I was when I heard now-former Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens was going to the Boston Celtics.
November 12, 2013
Having gone to a football school in the heart of basketball country, I was never around soccer in my youth, and thus haven’t been a soccer guy in adulthood.
November 5, 2013
I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we've seen this before.
October 29, 2013
There have been a lot of big games played in Indianapolis, none bigger than the Colts' unforgettable win over New England in the AFC championship seven years ago.
While next Monday's visit from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won't eclipse that monumental event, there is no doubt that the city has never and will never experience another night like No. 18's return.
October 17, 2013
There is no denying that Twitter has provided a once-impossible glimpse into the minds of sports figures. It has also infinitely increased the ability of those figures to make absolute fools of themselves.
September 18, 2013
July 20, 2013
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are either over or winding down, but the specters of death and justice have taken a disturbing new tandem twist this year with the issues of U.S. military suicides and sexual assaults within the ranks.
July 17, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
Nelson Mandela,95, anti-apartheid icon and former South African president, has died.
December 5, 2013
© 2013 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. ·
CNHI Classified Advertising Network ·
CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2013. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Our site is powered by Zope. Some parts of our site may require
you to download the Flash Player Plugin.
Terms and Conditions
Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN
8109 Kingston St., Suite 500