State Rep Woody Burton (center) and Senate President Pro Tempore Robert D. Garton (right) are finding themselves in Republican primary dogfights. HPR is now rating both races as "tossups." Burton began running attack adds against his opponent, Johnson County Council President Ron West after polling showed the race tightening. Garton, who is being challenged by Columbus accountant Greg Walker, was endorsed by 6th CD Republican chairman Ted Ogle Thursday morning. Both Burton and Garton are finding voters with significant anti-incumbent attitudes as property taxes in Johnson County spike, along with $3 a gallon gas.
Indiana Right to Life, along with the American Family Association of Indiana, is active in both of these races, weighing in on Walker's side in the Senate race and on Burton's side in the House race. Many observers believe that grassroots work by anti-abortionists in a Republican primary with a low turnout could aid Walker's uphill battle to unseat Garton. Because Burton's house district overlaps with Garton's senate district, get-out-the-vote efforts for Burton by anti-abortionists will aid Walker and hurt Garton.
As we reported earlier this week, AI has been hearing that Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood), who represents parts of Rep. Burton's district, has been helping out Walker behind-the-scenes. AI observed that insurance magnate Patrick Rooney kicked in $5,000 to Walker's campaign as he similarly did for Waltz when he was facing his uphill battle to unseat Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst in 2004 primary.
Incidentally, Patrick Rooney is also the founder of North Park Academy in Indianapolis, which just happens to employ Sen. Jeff Drozda (R-Westfield) as its COO. Drozda previously served as Executive Vice President of Indiana Right to Life, which also played a major role in aiding Waltz in his successful race against Borst.
The evidence just keeps growing that there is an organized effort by extremist conservatives in the Indiana Senate to oust Garton as Senate President Pro Tem. And we hear that Sen. Garton is well aware of who's a part of this effort within his own caucus.
UPDATE: A press release from Ted Ogle, 6th District GOP Chair, accuses Greg Walker of misleading voters over his endorsements and suggests that a national right to work group is behind those efforts. Ogle writes:
“I am concerned about statements being made in our local State Senate campaign. Senator Garton has been endorsed by well-known groups, such as the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc. and the Indiana manufacturers Association. Greg Walker has claimed the endorsement of the Indiana Republican Assembly on his mail and website. There is no such organization registered with the Indiana Secretary of State. Additionally, The Indiana Republican Party passed a Resolution on April 21, 2004 stating, “The Indiana Republican Assembly is not an auxiliary of or affiliated with or recognized by the Indiana Republican State Committee or Party,” and, “the group does not have authority to speak on behalf of the Indiana Republican State Committee nor should it be perceived that an endorsement by the Indiana Republican Assembly is an endorsement of the Indiana Republican State Committee or Party.” Ogle continued, “Voters should be aware that this organization is being used to confuse and mislead them.”
Ogle also cited the endorsement of Garton and the alleged endorsement of Walker by the “National Gun Owners Alliance.” Of that he stated, “It is interesting that Dennis Fusaro sent a letter on behalf of the “National Gun Owners Alliance” and is also the spokesperson for the National Right to Work Organization in Virginia. This further demonstrates that the National Right to Work organization is the group behind all of the negative campaigning that has taken place on behalf of Greg Walker. A lot of outsiders are involved in trying to unseat Senator Garton in this race and most of them are from out of State. What do they know about Hoosier values?”