For a major state political party running on fumes, the “Big Dem Weekend” should put the Hoosier political establishment on notice that the super minority Democrats are ready to feed off what they call the “socially divisive Republican agenda.”
More than 1,100 Democrats, including a number of Republican teachers, packed the Indiana Convention Center for the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner Friday night. So big was the crowd that the party had to move the dinner to bigger quarters on the second floor.
For a party which has been locked out of the governor’s office for three terms, and with only three Members of Congress, 31 in the Indiana House and 13 in the Indiana Senate, it seemed to be revved up after the dramatic debate on the constitutional marriage amendment last winter in the Indiana General Assembly. Chairman John Zody described Indiana Democrats as “focused but realistic about our goals.”
Those goals would be making inroads in the Indiana House and Senate, Joe Bock’s challenge to U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski in the 2nd CD, and picking up another Statehouse office, where many party regulars expect Beth White to make a vigorous challenge to appointed Republican incumbent Connie Lawson.
In the midst of the turnout were the two emerging 2016 gubernatorial candidates, 2012 nominee John Gregg and Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott, who circulated in the Jefferson-Jackson dinner Friday night. The most conspicuous no-show was former two-term governor and U.S. Senator Evan Bayh. One party operative observed that Bayh’s name tended to surface “at the end of a joke.”
Many Democrats, including McDermott, were bitterly disappointed when Bayh bolted the 2010 ticket with a bombshell announcement just days before the filing deadline, setting off a Chinese fire drill that had candidates jumping into other races and led to the loss of the 8th CD and a handful of Southwestern Indiana House and Senate seats. It fueled the Republicans’ 60-seat majority after the 2010 elections. The buzz from a number of Democrats about Bayh’s $9.8 million campaign war chest is that he is keeping it largely under lock until one of his 18-year-old twin sons decides to return to the state to forge a third Bayh generation dynasty, which is at least seven years in the offing.