Indiana Capital Chronicle: Indiana Sen. Jean Breaux dies following ongoing health problems

 Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said her health has worsened in a statement issued on Monday, March 18, 2024
Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said her health has worsened in a statement issued on Monday, March 18, 2024

Indiana Sen. Jean Breaux, a Democrat from Indianapolis, died Wednesday, according to her caucus — just two daysafter she issued a public farewell.

“It is a heavy and extremely sad day,” Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, said in a statement. He said Breaux’s loss would “be profoundly felt by the countless lives she touched, and we join so many in mourning the loss of her incredible life.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said he was “saddened to hear” of her death.

“I know I speak for my caucus when I say she will be sorely missed,” Bray continued. “She has long been a fierce advocate for her district and (was) always a lovely colleague with whom I truly enjoyed working. Our thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones during this difficult time.”

Breaux on Monday told constituents that it was time to “focus on enjoying the time I have left surrounded by my loved ones” following a “hard-fought battle with my health.”

She highlighted her work in Black infant and maternal mortality, food access, utility affordability and more. She didn’t explicitly resign, however.

Breaux previously said she “encountered an infection of unknown origin” during the holiday season. In mid-February, she was “optimistic about returning to work,” but ultimately didn’t appear during the 9-week legislative session.

Ballots go out

Her death also comes just over a month out from primary Election Day, on May 7 — and nearly at the deadline for county election officials to mail ballots to voters who successfully applied for them.

Breaux is the only Democrat in the running for Senate District 34, which covers the near east side of Indianapolis.

A challenger, Chunia Graves, was blocked from running because she didn’t have two Indiana Democrat primary votes on her record. She had moved for college and voted Democrat there instead.

Democrats will caucus in a replacement to finish her current term within 30 days. But she was also running for re-election.

Matthew Kochevar, Democrat general counsel for the bipartisan Indiana Election Division, told the Capital Chronicle that ballots have already been printed in Marion County — with Breaux’s name — and per state law, they won’t have to be reprinted. Absentee ballots must be mailed out to voters by Saturday.

“The Marion County Election Board is the one charged with administering the election there. So, they have a meeting, and they may may arrive at a different conclusion, but as I look at it, there’s no need to reprint that ballot,” Kochevar said. “Since Sen. Breaux was the only one who was on the ballot for that senate district, there essentially will be a ballot vacancy that the party will fill after the primary and get done sometime before the new July 3 deadline.”

Colleagues offer condolences

Breaux was elected to the Indiana Senate in December 2006 and served as assistant Democratic leader for the Senate Democratic Caucus from 2012 to 2020. Before taking office, she worked for the Indiana Department of Economic Development.

Colleagues mourned Breaux Wednesday.

“It was an honor to serve with Sen. Jean Breaux. Together we worked on legislation to serve pregnant women and children, co-authored doula legislation, & passed legislation last year that allows pregnant legal permanent residents & their children to be covered by Medicaid and CHIP,” wrote Rep. Maureen Bauer, D-South Bend. “Her good service to the state of Indiana will be long-lasting, and I will miss seeing her at the Statehouse. Rest easy, Senator.”

Rep. Mitch Gore, D-Indianapolis, said Breaux “never lost her love for her neighbors or her deep commitment to her district. I’ll miss her kind smile. Rest in Peace, Senator, and may your mother and family find more peace in the days ahead.”

Taylor said Breaux’s family would release information about a memorial service “once they have had time to make arrangements.” She is survived by her mother, former Sen. Bille Breaux, and other family.


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