Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

August 7, 2012

Lawson named new leader in the House

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The nameplate outside the office of the  House minority leader wasn't the only thing that changed when Indiana House Democrats ousted their longtime boss  in a dramatic coup late last month.

Gone, too, is the big desk where the now deposed leader, South Bend state Rep. Patrick Bauer, once sat, replaced by an oval-shaped conference room table with multiple chairs.

It was put there this past week by seven-term state Rep. Linda Lawson.

She was tapped by her fellow dissidents to lead them through the tough election season ahead in which they fear losing more ground to Republicans who dominate the Statehouse.

"I don't want this to be a place where people are afraid to come into and just have a conversation," said Lawson. "I don't want it to be it off limits to anybody."

Lawson, 56, is a former police captain from Hammond  lauded by colleagues for being both inclusive and wary of power.

In that, they say, she's the antithesis of Bauer, a pugnacious political leader known by friends and enemies alike for his autocratic style in his 10 years as caucus leader.

Lawson, who long favored back row seats in the House chamber – a place usually reserved for rookie lawmakers – said she'd rarely been in the office she now occupies. That changed in 2010, when Bauer picked her as a deputy, naming her as the minority floor leader and moving her up to a front row.

"This is not something I ever wanted to do," Lawson said,  sitting at the conference table in her new office. "I'm not kidding: I'd been in this room maybe 10 times up until two  years ago."

The move comes at a critical time: Going into the November election, House Democrats hold 40 seats in the 100-member House. They fear losing even a few seats, which would give the GOP a super-majority in the House. Republicans already hold a super-majority in the Senate, meaning they can pass legislation without a single Democratic vote.

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