Indiana Dems: This Is Our Moment And We’re Seizing It

February 23, 2011 1:07 p.m.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) changed his tune on Wednesday, after Democrats said they’re staying put in Urbana, IL rather than letting the GOP majority push through Daniels’ education reform agenda. Gone was Daniels’ conciliatory tone from Tuesday, when he told his party to drop the right-to-work bill that sent House Democrats across the border to Illinois. In its place a was a pledge to wait out the Democrats and keep the Indiana legislature open as long as he has to in order for votes to take place.

Color Indiana Democrats unimpressed.“At first we thought the Governor was being the good cop and [House] Speaker [Brian Bosma] was being the bad cop,” state Rep. Scott Pelath (D) told TPM in a phone interview from his Illinois hotel room. “Now it looks like the governor is taking both of those roles in his own person.”

Pelath said his caucus is not yet planning to leave Urbana, pointing to what he said was the “radical agenda” being pushed by the Republicans and Daniels. Pelath rejected the notion that “right-to-work” was dead because state Republicans have chosen to abandon the bill that was focused on it. He said there are union-busting plans in other bills and dropping one bill didn’t put an end to the fight.

But Democrats are also upset over Daniels statewide school voucher plan, which would let public school students use state money to attend private schools if they chose. Pelath said that bill was just as objectionable for Democrats as right-to-work is.

“We’ve taken our lickings on a number of different issues — there are many things that we deeply disagree with that are probably going to become law,” Pelath said. “But legislative bodies require a quorum for a reason…to drive policy making back toward the center.”

“When things clearly become too radical, too far outside the mainstream, it empowers the minority to get the majority back on track,” he added. “We need to assert ourselves as a minority to make sure they’re not misreading their mandate, not overstepping their bounds.”

State Democratic Party chair Dan Parker said his party is seizing a political moment.

“Is there a certain political benefit? That’s yet to be determined,” Parker told TPM. “But I can tell you the base of the Democratic party is pretty riled up in the state of Indiana right now.”

“We may not have a lot of numbers right now,” he added. “But this shows…we’re not just going to roll over and play dead.”

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