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Man who ousted Senate leader was supported by churches and activists

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COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — Greg Walker, the political newcomer who defeated Sen. Robert Garton in last week’s primary, waged his winning campaign with the help of churches, anti-abortion activists, a building contractor group and a conservative insurance magnate.

Walker, a Columbus tax accountant who works for Mac’s Convenience Stores, said the fact that he beat Garton even though the longtime Senate President Pro Tempore raised 10 times more than him shows that people paid more attention to the issues than to money and advertising.

A conservative Christian, he said he thanks God and the people who campaigned on his behalf for helping him defeat Garton, who was first elected in 1970.

Church congregations, anti-abortion activists, gun rights supporters and even a building and contracting political action committee supported Walker with financial and in-kind services.

Kathy Humbarger, chairwoman for Indiana Right to Life PAC, said her group endorsed Walker because Garton allowed an anti-abortion bill to die without a vote in this year’s session.

Garton has said the legislature simply ran out of time to take up the abortion bill because other bills that came ahead of it.

Humbarger said she and others called the presidents of the anti-abortion group’s other Indiana chapters about Garton, took out ads and recruited groups to campaign for Walker. She said the grass roots effort helped pave the way for Walker’s success.

“While we were disappointed with Garton, we firmly believe Greg Walker is pro life in his DNA,” she told The Republic.

Walker’s only newspaper ad in Columbus’ daily newspaper was paid for by a Right to Life PAC and stated that Walker would “represent ’your’ pro-life values ... unlike Bob Garton, the incumbent.”

One of Walker’s bigger supporters was Indianapolis insurance magnate J. Patrick Rooney, a longtime supporter of conservative causes who also financially supported state Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, two years ago when he upset longtime Senate Finance Chairman Larry Borst.

Rooney contributed $5,000 toward the end of Walker’s campaign.

But Associated Builders and Contractors’ Indiana chapter was Walker’s largest campaign contributor, campaign finance reports show.

The group gave $30,000 to the campaign and took out radio ads.

ABC Chapter President J.R. Gaylor said the group believes in the “free enterprise system and in open and fair competition with minimal government intervention” for builders and contractors.

He said Garton fell out of its favor partly because he voted for lifetime health retirement benefits for all senators when many workers across the state have none.

Gaylor said he and another ABC member twice interviewed Walker before they endorsed him.

“He shares our views,” he said.

Walker, who’s a member of the Church of Christ in Columbus, mainly credits his supporters for spreading his message of Christian-centered governing to the public.

Walker does not own a television and does not have a working radio in any of his three cars. The first time he heard one of his campaign’s radio ads, he said, was the night before his primary victory.

Ted Ogle, the Bartholomew County Republican Party chairman, said he knows little about Walker and complained that the candidate made no effort to contact him for party support.

Walker said Ogle never tried to contact him, either.

“He has my number. I don’t have his,” he said.

 

Posted 5/8/2006

 

 

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