Lawson – a self-described progressive who admits to being arrested outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago – was the surprise pick to fill the role unwillingly vacated by Bauer July 26, after a majority of House Democrats met in a Lafayette union hall and voted him out.
But she appears to be a welcome one, chosen in part to repair some of the damage done by the public exhibition of an intra-party struggle. Bauer bitterly opposed his ouster, calling a press conference to declare the vote to remove him illegal. He blamed disgruntled, intra-party enemies who found him too old, too short and too "follicly impaired" – his reference to his baldness that he covers with a toupee.
State Rep. Terri Austin, an Anderson Democrat who helped oust Bauer, said Lawson's standing – as a respected, experienced legislative leader who craves collaboration over control – makes her the "right person at the right time."
That sentiment is echoed by state Rep. Steve Stemler, a Jeffersonville Democrat, who broke from his caucus by refusing to take part in the Bauer-led walkouts in the last two sessions which were designed to stall GOP-backed legislation opposed by union labor. Stemler said Lawson, who took part in the walkouts, disagreed but respected his decision. "She's a fair- and open-minded person who's willing to hear you out," Stemler said. "That's all you can really ask."
Lawson even won praise from House Republican Speaker Brian Bosma, whom Bauer gleefully took on as a political enemy. Bosma called Lawson a "very capable individual and experienced and respected leader," noting her work as past chair of the House judiciary committee. "We don't have to agree on everything to be able to work together," Bosma said.