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The Journal Gazette

Monday, May 14, 2018 6:00 pm

Martinsville Republican to replace Long as Senate leader

INDIANAPOLIS - Senate Republicans have chosen their next leader - Martinsville Republican Sen. Rod Bray.

The caucus took a behind-the-scenes vote Monday after special session and Bray defeated Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle.

"We have an awful talented group in our caucus," Bray said. "We are going to bring that talent to bear, try to use everybody in their best capacity."

He will take over when Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, resigns after the November election.

"Rod Bray is a strong selection to lead the Indiana Senate. He’s smart, disciplined, well-respected and a good listener. He brings both the experience and insight necessary to become the next great leader of the Senate," said Gov. Eric Holcomb. "I look forward to working with him in the years ahead."

Bray said the vote was a comfortable margin and the exact tally didn't matter because the caucus is now fully behind him.

"We all ran a hard working campaign," he said. "It was clean in every respect. At no period in time was there any hot spot or tension."

Technically, some members could lose in November changing the total slightly. A formal vote must still happen in November to make it official.

Bray said he doesn't expect wholesale changes under his leadership. The leadership team may change slightly and some committee chairs could differ.

But he said Holdman will remain chair of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee.

Holdman said he doesn't know what made the difference in the race for pro tem but that he is "absolutely on board supporting the new leadership team. I'll do whatever he needs me to do." 

Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper, has been tapped as the Majority Floor Leader. He is a former House member and said he expects to play a role in final negotiations on the budget and other key legislation next year.

Bray said the caucus will set its priorities over the summer but he expects one issue to be helping the Indiana Department of Child Services. Lawmakers are waiting for a report from an outside consultant on the agency.

Long said Monday's debate was smooth and high level and the entire caucus is now behind its new leadership team.

Bray has been in the Senate since 2012 - making it a quick rise to run the chamber. He is a lawyer who works on many complicated legal issues for the caucus.

nkelly@jg.net