There is an interesting philosophical battle going on within the Indiana Republican Party.
With qualified majorities in both houses of the Indiana General Assembly and all elected state offices under their control, the party is experiencing a power struggle.
Less than a year after his second term, Governor Eric Holcomb is already considered a “lame duck” in power. Normally, the term refers to an elected official in the last year of his mandate. This means that the civil servant becomes less efficient at the end of the mandate.
Republican lawmakers have passed a law that allows them to call a special session of the Indiana General Assembly without the governor’s approval. Holcomb filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the measure.
Much of the fight has centered on Holcomb’s decision to institute a mask mandate and shut down businesses during the pandemic. GOP members felt Holcomb had gone too far, while Democrats didn’t believe he had gone far enough.
The case is heard in a Marion County court, where Attorney General Todd Rokita argues that the governor cannot hire an outside legal advisor without his permission.
It is a fight for the hearts and minds of the party.
A large faction of newly elected lawmakers have merged with outgoing members of the Legislative Assembly to continue trying to woo voters who voted for Donald Trump in the last two presidential elections.
Members of the main line are trying to keep control of the party and traditional conservative positions of the GOP.
In many ways, this is similar to what happened in 2012 when Tea Party frontrunner Richard Mourdock defeated outgoing GOP Senator Richard Lugar in the primary election. Mourdock lost to Democrat Joe Donnelly, who was defeated in 2018 by GOP candidate Mike Braun, with help from Trump.
“I don’t think he’s a lame duck,” Senator Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said of Holcomb. “He still has a good reputation with the public. “
Lanane said Democrats in the State House and Senate have been placed in the unusual position of trying to defend Holcomb against Republicans in both chambers.
Almost a century ago, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt coined the term “bully pulpit” to describe the influence exerted by the occupants of the White House on public opinion. As governor, Holcomb also has the “Chair of Bullying” as nearly every statement or action he takes will attract media and public attention.
State Representative Terri Austin D-Anderson questioned why Holcomb did not push harder during the legislative session to pass programs. “He did not use the bully chair like other governors to push through his legislative agenda,” Austin commented.
With three more years in the governor’s mansion, it looks like Holcomb will meet resistance from a core of Republicans in the legislature when it comes to spending and political decisions. With millions of dollars in federal aid to be used in the state, how these funds are spent will become a point of contention.