After lying low for several days after an eventful election night, Republican state Sen. David Long of Fort Wayne said Friday he is exploring a run for Senate president pro tempore.
The position is up for grabs after the shocking defeat of longtime incumbent Sen. Robert Garton of Columbus, who has presided over the Senate since 1980 and was first elected in 1970.
“This is not the way a man with 36 years of experience should go out, but it happens,” Long said. “There is a point when you have been here longer than your constituents want.”
He noted that he is more conservative than Garton but respects him greatly for his integrity, decorum and leadership.
“The whole caucus is in a little bit of shock.”
Long tells Kelly that he expects both Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) and Sen. James Merritt (R-Indianapolis) to enter the race. Long, you may recall, backed up Garton's decision to maintain the health insurance for life legislative perk. Kelly writes, "Long said any future decision on the program would have to come from the body as a whole, not just the new leader." Incredible. The self-serving perk has already claimed the chamber's two most powerful members in the last 2 election cycles. Should there be any question about ending it?
Long's description of himself as being more conservative than Garton is worth noting. Clearly, he's signaling to the growing extremist conservative element in the caucus that he will be more predisposed to their issues. That is the only way he will be able to pick off any votes within this group, such as Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn). It is unlikely that the Drozdas and the Waltzes will settle for Long though.
Kelly observes that one of Garton's predecessor, Phil Gutman, was also from Allen County. As Kelly notes, "Gutman was convicted of extortion and became the second president pro tem to serve time in prison for actions committed in an official capacity while serving in that office."
The Gutman matter reminds me of a fundraiser I attended several years back for the Senate Republican caucus when I was working as a lobbyist. A well-respected lobbyist, while introducing Garton, eluded to the Gutman scandal and how Garton had helped clean up the Senate. To the surprise of the lobbyist and almost everyone else in the room, Garton bristled at the suggestion that Gutman had discredited the Senate. He praised Gutman and noted that he employed his daughter Gretchen on his staff at that time as a measure of respect for him. Is it any wonder Garton never understood the public's feelings about the life-time health insurance perk?