By Emily Ketterer | Indianapolis Business Journal
For The Republic
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are still more than two months from convening their 2022 session in January, but a growing number have already said it will be their last.
Nine lawmakers have announced they won’t seek reelection in 2022. All are Republicans—and five of them would have had to face off against another incumbent had they decided to run again, thanks to district maps the GOP-led Legislature redrew this fall using 2020 Census data.
One Democrat will be leaving even sooner. Sen. Karen Tallian of Ogden Dunes said she will resign Nov. 1. She told The Times of Northwest Indiana that she’s “had enough.”
A caucus of precinct committee members in her Lake County district will choose her replacement, who will be sworn in for the 2022 session.
Tallian has served in the Senate since 2005 and has been a key Democratic voice on budget issues.
And she’s not the only veteran lawmaker calling it quits.
House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, one of the Legislature’s most powerful leaders, will leave after 28 years. He’s been the author of four state budget bills but suffered significant injuries in a motorcycle accident three years ago that he said changed his outlook.
Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, one of the chamber’s most conservative members, won’t seek reelection in 2022 after 18 years in the Senate and 15 in the House before that.
And Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, won’t seek reelection after more than 25 years, saying he “decided to turn the page on this incredible chapter of my life.”
Other Republicans who’ve said they won’t seek reelection are:
Rep. Tony Cook, R-Cicero
Rep. Doug Gutwein, R-Francesville
Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston
Rep. Cindy Ziemke, R-Batesville
Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville
Brown, Cook, Lehe, Gutwein, Grooms and Boots were placed in the same districts as other Republican incumbents during the redistricting process.
Lehe, who has served since 2002 and is chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, told WFYI that between his long tenure and the redistricting process, he felt it was a good time to retire.
“I don’t know, just a combination of things,” he told the news station. “Felt like the time to step aside.”
Redistricting does sometimes lead long-serving lawmakers to opt against seeking reelection, said Laura Wilson, political science professor at the University of Indianapolis. And often, legislative leaders know which lawmakers are planning to retire even before they start drawing the maps.
Wilson said they can use that information to their advantage—as a sort of “free ticket” to make changes to districts that would otherwise be tough to sell to their caucus members.
“You wouldn’t have to worry about it nearly as much because you know this person is likely going to retire. OK, sure you’re drawing them out of that district. But that’s OK, because they were considering not stepping up and running again,” Wilson said.
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, has said that the House leaders drawing the new maps had conversations in advance with lawmakers that included whether they planned to run again.
Cook, for example, said he was not planning to run again for health reasons. And when the final maps were approved, Cook’s home had been moved into the district now represented by Huston.
Brown, the Ways and Means chairman, had also said he was considering retirement before the new maps—which put him in a district with another sitting House member—were finalized. And Grooms had announced his retirement plans before the maps were released, making it easier for leaders to move him into another district as well.
If history is a guide, more retirements are coming. After the 2010 redistricting, 26 lawmakers left or opted not run again. After the 2000 redistricting, 17 retired.
Wilson said that’s important because retirements are a “major factor” in opening up seats for new competition. Otherwise, incumbents typically win reelection in Indiana with little challenge.
“Many of them are already retired from regular jobs where they’re in a position where they could potentially do this for as long as they live. So there’s no time constraint other than of their own volition,” Wilson said. “For many of our legislators, their future is in their hands and their decision of whether or not they want to run again because they’re highly likely to be reelected.”