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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:00 am

Bayh biographer recalls friendship with late senator

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Robert Blaemire learned last fall that the publication date for his biography of Birch Bayh would be May 1.

But Bayh died March 14 from pneumonia at age 91 at his Maryland home. By coincidence, a memorial service for the former U.S. senator from Indiana was scheduled at the Statehouse in Indianapolis on the same day as the release of Blaemire's “Birch Bayh: Making a Difference.”

“It was almost like Birch went the extra mile to help me sell books,” Blaemire said with a laugh during a telephone interview. “I think some people thought that we rushed this biography out, but it was in fact put to bed last fall.”

Blaemire, a political consultant from Bethesda, Maryland, and former aide to Bayh, will sign copies of “Birch Bayh: Making a Difference” at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Green Frog Inn in Fort Wayne. His book was published by Indiana University Press.

As a three-term Democratic senator, Bayh wrote two constitutional amendments and the law that prohibits gender discrimination in education.

Blaemire, 70, is a Lake County native who volunteered to work in Bayh's Senate office as a freshman at George Washington University in 1967. He worked on Bayh's staff and re-election campaigns for 13 years, and the two remained friends until Bayh's death.

Blaemire said he regularly traveled with the Hoosier senator for five months during his 1974 campaign.

“That is a kind of bonding experience that you can't duplicate, and we remained tight,” he said.

Blaemire videotaped 30 hours of interviews with Bayh beginning in 2012. Their sessions stretched over more than two years before Blaemire began writing his book.

“It's been a long task – a labor of love,” he said. “If it's any good it's because I had such access to him and this long history with him.”

Blaemire has been promoting his book recently in Indiana and Washington. He said the Fort Wayne book-signing appearance was arranged by three local residents who worked or campaigned for Bayh – City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, Leigh Smith and Charlie Belch – along with Green Frog owner Cindy Henry, who is the wife of Mayor Tom Henry.

Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event.

Hines tells why he cast nay vote

After casting the sole no vote on a resolution to create a study committee for Fort Wayne's Legacy Fund, Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, explained why he couldn't support it.

Hines described the move as a “stall tactic” that would create further delays for a $500,000 request from Science Central for a new planetarium.

Under the resolution approved Tuesday, the study committee will evaluate the city's Legacy Fund and make recommendations early next year. One of the bill's sponsors, Councilman Paul Ensley, R-1st, said that there may be a different council next year, which may have different priorities.

“Certainly we could make a recommendation to this council, but the next council may want something completely different,” Ensley said Tuesday. “I don't know of any major projects that are going to be seeking funding this year.”

Hines compared holding off on recommendations until after the November election to the U.S. Senate refusal to vote on Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's 2016 nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“It makes some sense to those who want to do that, and it doesn't make sense to those of us who feel confident that the decision or determination, depending on how soon you want to make it, could be made this year,” he said Tuesday.

Bipartisan Hoosiers

Two Hoosiers have been among the four most bipartisan U.S. senators since 1993, according to the latest rankings by the Lugar Center and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.

Former Democratic senator Joe Donnelly ranks third for lifetime score, and Republican Sen. Todd Young ranks fourth.

The Lugar/McCourt Bipartisan Index rates senators through the 2017-18 term of Congress based on bill sponsorships and co-sponsorships. The rankings do not include Republican Indiana Sen. Mike Braun, who took office this year after defeating Donnelly in last November's general election.

The top lifetime score belongs to former Republican senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. In second place is Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

The Bipartisan Index ranked 250 senators who have served for at least 10 months between 1993 and this year. In last place is former Republican senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

The index measures how often a senator co-sponsors a bill introduced by the opposite party and how often a senator's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party.

Rankings for former Indiana senators include Republican Richard Lugar, 29th; Democrat Evan Bayh, 75th; and Republican Dan Coats, 237th.

Lugar founded the nonprofit Lugar Center, a global issues think tank, and led it until his April 28 death.

Former senator and ex-vice president Joe Biden of Delaware, the polling front-runner among two dozen contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ranks 47th in the Bipartisan Index.

Rankings among current senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president include Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, 78th; Michael Bennet of Colorado, 143rd; Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 195th; Cory Booker of New Jersey, 214th; Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, 234th; Kamala Harris of California, 246th; and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 247th.

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column. 

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.