How big a surprise was the governor's call for a cigarette tax hike? It was big and especially big for Democrats. Briefings were held prior to the speech for Republicans, Democrats, and the media. Democrats heard no mention of the tax hike in their briefing and got no copies of the speech when they arrived in the chamber. They didn't know about the proposal until the words came out of the governor's mouth.
It must have been too big of a surprise for Indiana GOP Chairman Jim Kittle who we learned today has given up his position. A story in the Star's online edition today attributes no comments from Kittle about his sudden departure. Instead, the news was delivered by the party's executive director, State Rep. Luke Messer, who too has announced he's leaving the state party. A news conference is scheduled for Friday afternoon at which Kittle will publicly announce his resignation and the Governor will announce his choice to replace Kittle. The party will have to look to new leadership all around for this year's election.
The Governor's choice to replace Kittle will tell us about the direction the Governor wants to lead the party. While Kittle was generally viewed as a moderating influence, the state party itself has becoming increasingly conservative, with party treasurer Jim Bopp leading it in that direction. If the Governor is wise, he will choose someone who will make an effort to reach out to more moderate Republicans.
UPDATE: Indiana Daily Insight is reporting that speculation is centering on former Sen. Murray Clark as Kittle's replacement for state party chairman.