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The Bye-Bye Bayh Basics

Succession Scenarios Aplenty in Indiana

If Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.) is named to the Democratic national ticket this year — and if he ends up being elected vice president — it is sure to set off a scramble for succession in both parties, and several Members of the state’s Congressional delegation could become involved.

“It would be a very similar situation” to 1988, when then-Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.) was elected vice president, said Cam Savage, communications director for the Indiana secretary of state’s office.

The major difference is that Bayh is up for re-election this year — Quayle wasn’t in 1988.

Under Indiana law, Bayh can continue to seek a second Senate term even if he is running for vice president. There’s precedent for that too, of course, most recently with Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) in 2000.

But because timing is everything in politics, several what-if scenarios follow.

The filing deadline for the Indiana Senate race is fast approaching — it’s this Friday. No Democrats have filed to run against Bayh in the May 4 primary. Two little-known Republicans are running: Butler University sociology professor Marvin Scott, and Dwight Wilkerson, a lawyer and former campaign aide to Pat Buchanan’s 1996 White House campaign. Bayh is the heavy favorite in November.

If Bayh were selected as the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate, and if he chose to abandon the Senate race to concentrate full time on the national election, he would have to withdraw from the Senate contest by July 15. If he does so, the State Democratic Central Committee would choose a replacement on the ballot.

Otherwise, after July 15, the only ways to have a name removed from a ballot “are death or disqualification — a successful challenge on the grounds that the nominee does not meet the requirements to hold the office,” Savage said.

Of course, the Democratic National Convention does not begin until July 26, and there’s no telling whether the presumptive nominee will have selected his running mate before then.

But suppose Bayh is the pick, and suppose he remains on the ballot. If he’s elected vice president, he would have to resign his Senate seat before the Jan. 20, 2005, inauguration.

That’s where timing comes in again. If Bayh wins re-election but is on his way to the vice presidency, the task of choosing an interim Senator falls to the governor of Indiana.

The Hoosier State has a competitive gubernatorial election this year, between Gov. Joe Kernan (D) — who rose to the post last fall after the death of his predecessor — and, presumably, former White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mitch Daniels, the odds-on favorite in the GOP primary.

If Kernan wins a full term, there will be no pressure on Vice President-Elect Bayh to resign early. But if Kernan loses, Bayh will surely resign before a Republican governor takes office on Jan. 1, 2005, ensuring that Kernan gets to pick the temporary Senator.

This is what happened when Quayle was elected vice president. Outgoing Republican Gov. Robert Orr appointed then-Rep. Dan Coats (R) to the Senate before a 33-year-old Democratic governor-elect named Evan Bayh took office in January 1989.

Coats was elected to fill the remaining two years of Quayle’s Senate term in 1990, then won a full six-year term of his own in 1992. When Coats chose not to run for re-election in 1998, he was succeeded by — Evan Bayh.

Whomever is appointed to fill a Senate vacancy (in the event that there is one) would have to stand for election for the remaining four years of Bayh’s term in 2006, at the same time Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) would be up for his sixth term. Lugar is as much of a political untouchable as Bayh has proven to be in Indiana. So the idea of dual Senate contests going on then is intriguing to say the least.

Who might be in line to fill a Senate vacancy? Who might run for a seat in 2006 without an entrenched incumbent?

On the Democratic side, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew is a distinct possibility. Andrew, a lawyer, was the Democratic frontrunner in the 2004 gubernatorial contest until term-limited Gov. Frank O’Bannon (D) died unexpectedly last fall. Kernan, the lieutenant governor, who had previously said he would not be a candidate for governor in 2004, took over, and eventually decided to change course on the election.

Andrew stepped aside. But in a statement endorsing Kernan on his still-active campaign Web site, he made it clear that he does not intend to fade away from Hoosier State politics.

“For me this is a dream delayed and deferred but not a dream denied,” he said.

Andrew is now working for a Chicago-based law firm, and commutes between there, Washington, D.C., and his home outside of Indianapolis.

“He’s had to refocus his life,” said Dan Parker, executive director of the Indiana Democratic Party.

Of the three Democratic Members of the Indiana House delegation, three-term Rep. Baron Hill has run for Senate before and may be tempted to do so again. Then a state legislator, he was the Democratic nominee against Coats in 1990, and walked across the entire state. A Senate race may also appeal to Hill because he has yet to rack up more than 54 percent of the vote in his House races.

If Kernan wants to turn to an eminence grise to fill a Senate vacancy, he could tap former House Foreign Relations Chairman Lee Hamilton (D), who is still civically active at age 73.

Two Democratic mayors are also considered rising stars in Indiana — Bart Peterson of Indianapolis and Graham Richard of Fort Wayne.

Among Republicans, former Rep. David McIntosh, the party’s nominee for governor in 2000, resisted suggestions from party leaders that he challenge Bayh this year and started running for governor again. But when he saw that Daniels had all of the institutional support and that President Bush was getting involved in the GOP primary, he pulled out of the race.

In the delegation, Rep. Mark Souder (R) could see a 2006 special Senate election as a way to stay in Congress without breaking the six-term-limit pledge he made when he was first elected to the House in 1994. Reps. Steve Buyer, Chris Chocola, John Hostettler and Mike Pence are all 45 or younger and may have further ambitions, though Chocola and Hostettler face tough re-election battles this year and Hostettler has never been aggressive about raising money.

Among statewide elected officials, Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R) is considered a rising star. Social conservative activist Eric Miller (R), who is running for governor, could also run.

Parker, the Democratic operative, said state politicians believe it is too early to be discussing these hypotheticals.

“When only one person has the decision,” he said, referring to the Democratic presidential nominee, “it’s hard to try to focus on what it’s going to mean. We’re not even worried about it. We’re focused on making sure that the Senator is re-elected.”

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