INDIANAPOLIS -- This morning, Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan was poised to assume power as Indiana's acting governor, but was in no hurry to assume the title as state officials awaited further word on the condition of Gov. Frank O'Bannon.
Legislative leaders would prefer to see an update on O'Bannon's condition in writing and talk to his family before taking formal steps to transfer power to Kernan, said House Speaker Patrick Bauer.
"We are all in agreement that it is early. We will remain hopeful," Kernan said.
O'Bannon remained in critical condition in a Chicago hospital Tuesday after doctors said he suffered a massive stroke.
Kernan was widely considered the heir apparent to the governor's office when he announced in December he would not seek the Democratic nomination, shocking even some party insiders.
Known for his vibrant personality and ability to work with the Republican majority in the Senate, Kernan is a former prisoner of war who has served 16 years as an elected official.
Kernan, 57, was with O'Bannon at a meeting of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association and rode with him in the ambulance. Kernan remained with the governor at the hospital before returning to the Statehouse Monday afternoon.
Once the Indiana Supreme Court approves a transfer of power, the constitution requires the lieutenant governor to serve as acting governor through the end of the term unless the governor seeks to resume leadership.
Kernan has held the state's second-highest office since 1997.
Kernan was viewed as the Democrat most likely to win the office in 2004 despite the state's $800 million budget deficit and O'Bannon's popularity plunge.
Last month, Kernan said he was trying to form a local group that would try to buy South Bend's minor-league baseball team, the Silver Hawks.