The Right to Life committee's chairman, Mike Fichter, blamed Garton for killing the bill."Our endorsement is based not only on Mr. Walker's strong support for the sanctity of life," Fichter said, "but also on our profound disappointment over the Senate President Pro Tempore's refusal to call for a floor vote on pro-life legislation in the final hours of the 2006 General Assembly." Garton said he didn't refuse to call HB 1172; rather, the Senate didn't have time to vote on it. After lengthy debate on property tax reform and Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal to lease the Indiana Toll Road, the Senate had little time before midnight to wrap up the session. HB 1172 was one of seven bills the Senate didn't get to. "I voted to send the bill to the floor out of the rules committee," Garton said. "We just ran out of time."
What is interesting about the endorsement is the fact that Garton's voting record based on the group's own analysis shows that he voted the anti-abortion line 90% of the time. This is the first outward indication that the forces which helped oust former Senate Finance Committee Chairman Larry Borst in the last election are beginning to line up behind Walker against Garton. Speaking of the comparison to that race, AI wrote back in January:
In the last election differing Republican interests gathered to topple the long-time chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Larry Borst (R-Indianapolis) in the Republican primary with a little-known candidate Brent Waltz. With the announcement at week's end that the longest serving Senate President Pro Tem in Indiana's history, Robert Garton (R-Columbus) will have a primary opponent, it appears those same forces may be coalescing to bring about a similar fate to Garton.
With this endorsement, Walker can count on money and, more importantly, grassroots support to turn out voters for him in the May primary. Does this mean other right wing groups will follow suit? Judging by the American Family Association's reaction from its Indiana head, Micah Clark, there is reason to believe they will. Clark responded, "This endorsement by the IRTL Political Action Committee is a bold effort to replace the highest post in the Senate with a pro-life legislator and to make the chamber leadership more reflective of its younger, more conservative newer members." Clark notes that "seven of the last eight new state Senators have been pro-life."
Garton apparently thought he could count on the wing nuts to stay with him in this race, but he obviously miscalculated. Although a moderate at heart, Garton has moved to the right in recent years to assuage his increasingly conservative caucus so that he could hold on to his leadership position. When you add to this support the support Walker will have from discontented voters who think that 36 years is long enough and are upset with Garton's refusal to kill the health insurance for life legislative perk, things are beginning to look pretty ominous for Garton.