Indiana Senate leader David Long to retire

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, outlines the Senate Republicans’ legislative agenda during a news conference at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Republican leader of the Indiana Senate said on Tuesday that he will step down from the Legislature later this year, making him the third high-profile GOP lawmaker to announce their departure from the chamber over the last year.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long said “it is time” for him to move on after roughly 30 years in elected office — first as a member of the Fort Wayne City Council, later as a state senator, and for the last 12 years as the GOP senate leader.

“I’m not ready to sit on a beach all day,” Long said during a Statehouse press conference flanked by his wife, Melissa, a former Fort Wayne TV news anchor. “I intend to continue to work, just on my own terms.”

Long plans to remain leader until November, when he intends to step down. He declined to endorse a successor, though he said several senators would be good candidates, including current Majority Floor Leader Rodric Bray of Martinsville.

Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle is also considered a top contender. On Tuesday, Holdman said simply: “I’d never close a door.”

Republicans hold a commanding 41-9 majority in the Senate and GOP members will pick a new leader next fall.

Long’s announced departure comes after former Senate budget writer Luke Kenley retired after the 2017 session, and Senate floor leader Brandt Hershman quit in January to take a job in Washington D.C.

“It’s difficult to leave a job that you love and that you believe you were born to do,” said Long. “However, none of us is indispensable, and you have to know when the time is right to step away. For me, that time is now.”

Several other high-profile Statehouse leaders have also announced plans to leave the Legislature, including longtime Reps. William Friend and Kathy Richardson, both Republicans, as well as Scott Pelath, who was Democratic Minority Leader until November 2017.

Long has been the Senate’s leader since 2006 and was first elected to the chamber 22 years ago.

He counted among his accomplishments the passage legislation cutting and capping taxes, an anti-union law that curtailed the power of labor organizations to collect dues, the creation of the state’s health care plan for poor people, and a tax hike approved last year to pay for infrastructure improvements.

But there have also been difficulties along the way. Long faced a primary challenger in 2016 who opposed his unsuccessful attempt that year to extend state anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

This year, he unsuccessfully pushed for Indiana to pass a hate crimes law, legislation that was killed amid opposition from within the Senate Republican caucus. The state is one of just five without a law targeting so-called crimes of bias and during a press conference last month, he pledged that the state would eventually pass one. That will now have to be done without him.

House Speaker Brian Bosma had nothing but praise.

“David has helped drive Indiana’s success story and his leadership and experience will be sorely missed at the Statehouse,” the Indianapolis Republican said. “It’s been an honor to serve alongside him and call him my friend.”

For more than two decades, David has been a steady hand in the Statehouse no matter the subject or challenge. He is a humble servant leader, and our state owes many great accomplishments to him—though he would never say so. I will miss his cool head and the continuity he brought to the General Assembly. I wish him a long and happy retirement, but I know he’ll remain a mentor, advisor and trusted friend to many—including me.”

– Gov. Eric Holcomb

President Pro Tem David Long has played a critical role in Indiana’s transformation to a state with a top-rated business climate, strong economy and record of honestly balanced budgets. Under strong Republican leadership, our state continues to lead the way as the fiscal envy of the nation while boasting the No. 1 ranked state government. David has helped drive Indiana’s success story, and his leadership and experience will be sorely missed at the Statehouse. It’s been an honor to serve alongside him and call him my friend.”

-IN House Speaker Brian Bosma