Evan Bayh (1989 – 1997)
Evan Bayh is, of course, the son of Birch Bayh. It would seem that being the son of a Senator gives a guy a leg up. Birch was senator from 1963 to 1981 when he was beat by Dan Quayle during the Reagan wave. Evan was born in 1955 and went to grade school in Washington D.C. then to undergrad at Indiana University and law school at the University of Virginia. At the tender age of 30, he ran for and was elected Indiana Secretary of State.
In 1988, at the age of 32, he was elected governor and took office at the age of 33, making him the youngest governor in the country. He was a popular governor. His first election was against Robert Orr’s lieutenant governor, John Mutz. Mutz’s name sticks with me because I was in high school when he was in the Orr administration. My civics teacher, Jerrel Brooks, had us pay attention to the newspapers. One thing he pointed out was that, as we were approaching the time for campaigning, the Orr administration would give Mutz the big, happy announcements — factories opening, jobs relocating to Indiana, that sort of thing. He said, that’s one way we could tell he was going to be running for governor. Those tricks of the trade were not enough to get Mutz the job, however. Bayh beat Mutz by 6.5% of 2.1 million cast. In fact, Bayh turned one of Mutz’s successes against him. Mutz had had a leading role in convincing Subaru to locate a plant in Lafayette. Bayh criticized the subsidies, claimed that it was a bad deal for Indiana, and played upon anxieties about the Japanese that were prevalent at the time.
I have, frankly, had trouble finding good resources on the history of the Bayh administration. My search has not been extensive, but searches tend to turn up more of his activity as a U.S. Senate and his current campaign efforts than a lot of detail about what he did while he was governor. So, I’ll just mention some of the other stuff happening in Indiana during 1989 and the early 90s.
First of all, this probably marked the first time since the 1850s or 1860s that Indiana did not have a Masson from my family living in it. My father had moved to Colorado in the 1970s, his mother passed away in the early 80s, my sisters left for college a few years before me, and I left for Ohio to go to school.
President pro tem, Bob Garton
During the 1980s and 90s, the Indiana Senate was dominated by President pro tem Bob Garton and his allies, Senators Larry Borst, Joe Harrison, and Morris Mills. Garton was a marine who worked first for Procter and Gamble, then in personnel for Cummins Engine in Columbus, then for himself as a management recruiter. After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1968 against Lee Hamilton, he was elected to the Indiana senate in 1970. In 1980, he became President pro tem of the Senate. His predecessors, Phil Gutman and Mark “Chip” Edwards had been convicted on bribery charges. Their conviction arose out of a scheme whereby railroad lobbyists gave a few Senators monthly payments for three years in exchange for their support on favorable legislation.
In the wake of the scandal, the leadership position was open. Garton and Harrison, in particular, seemed to be running hard for the spot. Ultimately Garton won, and Senators Garton, Harrison, Borst, and Mills would control the Senate for something like a quarter century.
The corruption scandal led Garton to make some important reforms to how business was done in the Senate. It also led to implementation of lobbying regulation (though that regulation was gutted in 1992 after Attorney General Linley Pearson issued an opinion on the the law that legislators felt was too strict in requiring lobbyists to disclose their expenses.) Garton was a stickler for the Senate rules. During his tenure the Senate was much more observant of the requirement that bills address one subject and about posting the dates and times of committee hearings in advance.
This power structure was one with which Governor Bayh had to contend. Senator Borst recalled Bayh’s term as governor as one that was popular with the public but was skeptical of the actual accomplishments. Bayh immediately implemented a Task Force to trim government waste and reduce its size but, according to Borst, “the savings claimed were dubious.” Similarly, Bayh forbid state employees from accepting “so much as a cup of coffee,” but, he said, that was never really enforced. He allowed the unionization of state employees but never entered into a meaningful contract with them. That said, Borst concluded, Bayh’s “don’t rock the boat” philosophy was good for the state at that time, and he had capable, honest staff members.
Bayh would go on to retire from the governor’s position with an 80% approval rating and a virtual coronation into his father’s old U.S. Senate seat. He held that seat until 2010 when he stepped down at an inopportune moment for his fellow Democrats, leaving them scrambling for a replacement in a tough election year for Democrats. After a finger-wagging departure speech in which he bemoaned partisanship, special interest influence, and a lack of public spirit, Bayh proceeded to take post-Senate jobs with the highly partisan Fox News and with a lobbying firm that made a lot of money promoting dubious interests.
For his part, Garton would continue to preside over the Senate until 2006 when he was beat by a primary challenge from the right. The motivation for the challenge seemed to be over abortion, but the media attention given to the challenge came from what was perceived as a sweetheart health care deal provided to retiring legislators.
In 2016, sitting on a campaign war chest and looking at better electoral prospects, Bayh entered the race to take back his old seat which had been occupied by North Carolina lobbyist and former Indiana Senator, Dan Coats. This was not to be, however. Bayh’s cozy connection with lobbyists and thin connection with Indiana came back to haunt him. He was the recipient of relentless coverage of the fact that he did not live here — something that was more muted when Coats ran for the same seat.