By Ken Kusmer
The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS - Republican Mitch Daniels, who traveled the state relentlessly pledging to revive Indiana's economy and bring sweeping reforms to state government, defeated Gov. Joe Kernan in Tuesday's election to end a 16-year Democrat hold on the governor's office.
With 64 percent of precincts reporting, Daniels had 831,415 votes, or 56 percent, and Kernan had 647,511, or 43 percent, according to unofficial results tabulated by the Associated Press.
Daniels, the first-time candidate and former aide to Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, returns the governor's office to the GOP for the first time since 1989, when Evan Bayh took office after beating then-Lt. Gov. John Mutz.
"I want all of you to know I've been waiting since 1988 for this night," Mutz said during a Republican celebration at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
The fieldhouse was packed with Daniels backers wearing green T-shirts and leis and headbands with elephants on them.
Behind the podium was a huge picture of "RV One," the donated recreational vehicle in which Daniels traveled the state, painting a down-home image that resonated with voters such as Tony Drabick of Greenwood.
"He seemed to be homegrown and he's got, I think, good visions for Indiana. He's got a good business background, and I think he's got some good insight on what direction the state needs to take," said Drabick, a retired postal worker.
Recent surveys had shown the race, the most expensive in state history, to be tight. Tensions between the campaigns simmered for months over jobs and government reform, but it became a slugfest in the end.
Kernan tried to paint Daniels as an outsider from Washington and as a greedy corporate insider for supporting the sale of Indianapolis utility IPALCO in 2001. Many retirees lost their life savings, Kernan's campaign contended, while Daniels and other board members sold their stock before the sale closed and made millions.
Daniels pounded on the loss of tens of thousands of Indiana jobs in recent years and said 16 years of Democratic governors left state government broke and rife with scandal. He accused Kernan of running a smear campaign over the IPALCO sale, saying he sold his stock when he did to meet ethical requirements of his new job as White House budget director.
Libertarian Kenn Gividen criticized both men for mudslinging, but his campaign never gained real traction.
Daniels pledged to revive and diversify Indiana's economy through business tax incentives and streamlined regulations. He promised to bring in a "new crew" to carry out aggressive government reforms.
He said legislators would find a giant stack of proposals on their desks come January, but the fate of those plans could hinge largely on which party controls the House. Republicans were expected to retain their grip on the Senate, but Democrats had a 51-49 majority in the House.
Kernan, who initially said he would not run for governor, changed his mind after being sworn into office in September 2003 following Gov. Frank O'Bannon's death.
Kernan said Indiana's economy was on the rebound, in part because of tax-restructuring and job packages he helped push through as lieutenant governor.
OHIO ELECTION RESULTS:
Ohio provisional ballots may decide presidential election
Voters repeal amendment on gay rights
Ohio Supreme Court: GOP's justices appear to be buttressing majority
Voinovich has no trouble winning 2nd Senate term
Sycamore levy passes; four others fail
Kerry effort falls short in Ohio
Ohio Republicans aim to maintain grip in House, Senate
Ohio election briefs
Ohio Issue 1 passes
Turnout heavy in suburbs
MU students hit the polls
HAMILTON CO. RACES
Cincinnati school levy passes
Hospital tax leading despite opposition
CLERMONT CO. RACES
Clermont County: Republicans remain choice in early count
Clermont County tax issues: Long lines delay counting
BUTLER CO. RACES
Fairfield levy passes
Butler commission: All incumbents being returned
Butler levies: Support strong for health, social care funding
Butler County Sheriff: Jones likely successor to Gabbard
WARREN CO. RACES
Heavy turnout, long lines delay vote count
Kings levy passes by slim margin
Indiana governor: Daniels prevails after tough, costly slugfest
Ballot misprint may affect Ind. school board race
KENTUCKY ELECTION RESULTS:
Alexandria: Voters stick with City Council's six incumbents
Bellevue City Council: Two incumbents losing seats with 4 of 5 precincts counted
Covington: Sanders and Stricker joining City Commission
Campbell County: Ward holds on to retain seat on Circuit Court
Florence City Council: One newcomer, five incumbents win seats
Independence: Four who opposed insurance tax win
Newport: Mayor, all four on council will be keeping their seats
Suburban schools: Campbell, other area boards get fresh faces
Villa Hills, Taylor Mill: Taxes to fix, replace city streets rejected
Urban schools: Newcomer ousts incumbent, snags Newport board seat
N. Ky. election briefs
Popular president dominates Kentucky
Ky. Senate: Bunning wins - but race was close
Ky. House: This time around, Davis prevails
Issue One: Kentucky overwhelmingly says yes to no-gay-marriage
State's determined voters brave long lines, waits, rain
23rd Senate District: Westwood survives challenge by Groob
Ex-Gov. Carroll wins Frankfort seat
State Senate: Republican Thayer wins a full term in new seat
67th House District: Keene's win preserves spot for Democrats
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Help Habitat by hiring yard rakers
Father inspired mission journey
Cone throw may bring legal action
Police dogs could get TV time at competition
Harrison man charged in auto fatals
Exhibit to spotlight 350 years of Judaism in America
Medal of Honor graves get special markers
Local news briefs
Neighbors news briefs
Good Things Happening
Gay Weber designed jet engines for GE
Time of change in Crestview Hills
Waltz or swing, timid students learn to let go
Florence Freedom has a deal
$545,000 grant to bolster Ky. health-care work force
N. Ky. news briefs
Jewelry gone after autopsy of corpse
N.Ky. schools' education guide available online
Murder counts filed in wreck that killed 2