OPINION: New state assembly Democrats display the future of Indiana Democratic policy
In the 2020 election cycle, Indiana Democrats in the state assembly made meager gains in the Senate while losing seats in the House of Representatives. Despite this, they are still plowing ahead with their agenda and pushing policy goals that may be difficult for Republicans to oppose.
After the 2020 election, Democrats swept both houses of Congress and the presidency, but the same cannot be said in Indiana, where the governor’s mansion and the state assembly are both controlled by Republicans.
Newly elected Democratic members of the state House and Senate plan to focus on education, health care and economic development.
Indiana Democrats will have to cope with being in the minority for yet another election cycle while still trying to accomplish their policy goals.
Democrats Mitch Gore, HD-89, Mike Andrade, HD-12, Maureen Bauer, HD-6, Fady Qaddoura, SD-30, and Shelli Yoder, SD-40, were all elected to the state assembly for the first time in 2020. The platforms of each of the five new members are essentially the same: fight for public education, improve health care for the poor and create economic policy oriented toward small business.
Perhaps the most obvious theme unifying this group is its commitment to increased salaries for public school teachers. Each member supports increasing teachers’ pay, with Andrade committed to be a co-sponsor of legislation putting part of the state’s budget surplus toward a $50,000 base salary for all teachers. Beyond teacher pay, all new members made a clear commitment to increased state investments into pre-K education.
“Indiana’s success starts in our public schools and the early years are critical,” said Yoder on her campaign website.
Unsurprisingly, Indiana Democrats have a very similar mission to national Democrats on health care, aiming to reduce prescription drug prices and expand affordable health care.
Qaddoura’s campaign website said the state legislature must protect Hoosiers’ health care from partisan federal politics, perhaps indicating a preference toward state-based solutions to health care issues. Bauer expressed a desire during the campaign to boost state funding for medical research facilities, such as the Indiana University School of Medicine.
In their economic policy, Democrats have a clear focus on ensuring living wage jobs are accessible to all Hoosiers.
They are also intent on improving small business operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of Andrade’s economic policy goals is to provide monetary resources and incentives for small businesses to continue safely operating. The new members hope to incentivize people and businesses to stay in Indiana, as Qaddoura and Yoder made clear in their list of priorities.
Considering the stated policy goals of the new wave of Democrats in the Indiana state assembly, Republicans will have to dispute health care improvements, challenge an increase to teacher salaries and stand against funding for small businesses if they want to oppose the Democrats.
As of now, Democrats hold 29 of the state house’s 100 seats and 11 of the senate’s — a small minority by any stretch. Their path to gaining more seats in both legislative chambers may be through a focus on policies that can rally Hoosiers across party lines. If state assembly Democrats can demonstrate Hoosiers will benefit from Democratic policy, it will improve up-ballot races for the party as well.
Passing new legislation will be difficult for state assembly Democrats, as any bill they introduce can be easily blocked by the Republican majority. Indiana Democrats will have to work on a strictly bipartisan basis to have any chance of making their policy proposals into law. This will prove difficult in the short term, but a record of bipartisan cooperation may be what Democrats need to expand their representation in Indiana.