Sunday, January 01, 2006

Will 2006 Produce A More Conservative Indiana GOP?

Is the Indiana GOP about to become even more conservative than it already is? Indiana Legislative Insight Editor Ed Feigenbaum raises that specter in his January 1, 2006 edition. Explaining why Indiana may be in for an “extreme makeover” of the House and Senate, Feigenbaum writes:

[B]ecause of the specter of a multitude of primary contests, particularly on the Republican side in both the House and Senate, that may result in the House GOP caucus becoming a much more homogenous-and ideologically conservative-group . . . None of these potential contests seem to be spurred on by ideological issues or concerns . . . but the defeat of any of the Republican incumbents can impact the swing that we have since since at least 2002 to a more ideological Senate.

Feigenbaum counts at least 7 incumbent House Republican members and 5 incumbent Senate members as facing opposition in the May primary. He reports that Republican representatives Ralph Ayres, Mary Kay Budak, Rich McClain, Tom Saunders, Woody Burton, Mike Murphy and David Frizzell will face primary opposition. On the senate side, Republican senators Jeff Drozda, Allen Paul, Mike Delph, John Waterman and Senate President Pro Tem Robert Garton will face primary opposition.

It also sounds like the state’s GOP leadership may be responsible for at least some of the primary challenges, who may be asking lobbyists and GOP lawmakers to choose sides against incumbents. Feigenbaum says, “[T]hey point to some involvement of this phenomenon not only from House leaders, but also from the Indiana Republican State Committee.” He adds, “We’re told to keep a close eye on the All Children Matter political action committee, which played a key role late in the election cycle in marginal House races.” That committee is tied to conservative Terre Haute lawyer Jim Bopp, who also serves as Indiana Republican Party Treasurer.

An even more conservative GOP may be just what Democrats are ordering for this year’s contest for control of the House of Representatives, which the Republicans narrowly control by a 52-48 margin. Mainstream voters may opt for Democratic House candidates in close races out of fear of the extremist measures which may result from one party control of the state by an even more conservative GOP.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has stated that he considers it a priority of his for the GOP to retain control of both houses of the General Assembly. But like his Democratic predecessors came to learn, his own political standing may be better served by a divided government. If the Democrats succeed in regaining control of the House this year, his chances of re-election in 2008 will be improved.

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