SPECIAL REPORT: Indiana voters oust top senator, toll road supporter

| 5/3/2006

Voters on Tuesday said no to a Mary Kay party in one northern Indiana political district, but they did make it clear they wanted a makeover.

Rep. Mary Kay Budak, R-La Porte, a supporter of the Indiana Toll Road lease, lost her seat in the primary election after having represented La Porte, Jasper, Porter and Pulaski counties since 1980.

The voter-prompted makeover on the Republican side saw Tom Dermody elected with 70 percent of the vote to face a Democratic opponent in the November general election.

Dermody, a Republican but also an opponent of the toll road lease, is a sales representative and local school board member.

Reporter Michele McNeil of The Indianapolis Star told "Land Line Now" that Budak's defeat had a lot to do with how voters viewed Gov. Mitch Daniel's "Major Moves" plan and the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road to a private consortium from Spain and Australia.

McNeil said she believes the stage is set for a partisan showdown in November.

"I think that in the primary, we saw a lot of opposition, and that was a sign that a lot of Republicans thought they could knock off the incumbents because the toll road," she said. "Representative Budak was the only one who lost (because of the toll road). However, I do think it will be a different story in November, because the Democrats are going to use the toll road against Republicans."

She said the toll road has been very unpopular in northern Indiana.

Another prominent Indiana Republican also got the boot on Tuesday.

State Senate President Pro Tempore Robert D. Garton of Columbus, IN, was defeated by accountant Greg Walker in Walker's first bid for public office. Garton has served in the state Senate for 36 years and this election marked the first time he faced a Republican opponent.

According to results on the Indiana Secretary of State's Web site, Walker received 2,767 votes Tuesday, compared to Garton's 2,130. Walker will face Democratic Terry Coriden in the fall.

Garton's loss means someone else will lead the Indiana Senate, which is controlled by Republicans 33-17.

McNeil told "Land Line Now" that Walker's victory over Garton was not tied to the toll road, but it did have to do with voter dissatisfaction on things like health benefits for officials and Garton's block of anti-abortion legislation.

Rep. Richard McClain, R-Logansport, IN, and Rep. Don Lehe, R-Brookston, IN, held onto their seats by narrow margins in the primary.

- By David Tanner, staff writer
Reed Black, staff writer for "Land Line Now" contributed to this report.