Marion County - Prosecutor Carl Brizzi called Greg Ballard the comeback kid, and in his victory speech for Indianapolis mayor, Ballard told jubilant supporters, "Welcome to the biggest upset in Indiana political history!"
"I told everybody for so long that six months ago I was the only one who believed, but now everybody believes," Ballard added, calling his campaign a "classic if not ultimate example of grassroots politics. The Beatles used to say money can't buy me love but it doesn't buy elections either."
Republicans look to make major gains in races across central Indiana, with the Indianapolis mayor and City-County Council looking like the biggest stories of the night.
Ballard led Peterson by several percentage points for most of the night. His win marks the first time in 40 years that an incumbent Indianapolis mayor has lost a bid for re-election.
Peterson concession speech
A few minutes after Ballard spoke to supporters, Bart Peterson gave his concession speech. He thanked his cheering supporters. "I want you all to know that I have called Greg Ballard and I have congratulated him on his victory. I told him I will give him my full support and I ask all of you to do the same. It's time to rally around the new mayor and to give as much to this city as you always have because at the end of the day it isn't about one individual."
Peterson thanked his family as well as his supporters and added, "Tomorrow the sun will rise and we'll still be living in the greatest city in America."
The mood at the GOP Marion County headquarters was upbeat throughout the evening. "Still optimistic," Ballard told Eyewitness News at around 9:40 pm. "I think we're gonna do it."
"This is the largest political upset in the history of Indianapolis and one of the largest in the history of the state. It's an indication that people, even in a very large city and regardless of which candidate is better known and has more money, can still take destiny into their own hands. Republicans now have both the opportunity and responsibility to show what they can do in charge of the state's largest city," said Peter Rusthoven, WTHR Republican analyst.
"It's disappointing, but it shows you that in this profession at any given time bigger issues can overtake anything. The fact of the matter is that Bart ran against a candidate that I called Proper T. Tax and that had an impact tonight. But things in this profession are cyclical and the loser tonight can be the winner tomorrow. I think that it will be more important that everybody demonstrate that they can govern this community and that they work to end the acrimony that demonstrated itself in this campaign," said Robin Winston, WTHR Democratic analyst.
Indianapolis mayoral race history
2007 Results (not final numbers, turnout still unknown)
Greg Ballard: 51% (78,181 votes)
Bart Peterson: 47% (72,628 votes)
2003 Election results (26% turnout)
Bart Peterson: 63% (92,763 votes)
Greg Jordan: 37% (55,354 votes)
1999 Election results (37% turnout)
Bart Peterson 55% (103,128 votes)
Sue Anne Gilroy 45 % (83,057 votes)
Meanwhile, Republican Paul Ricketts upset incumbent Deborah Cantwell in the race for Lawrence mayor.
Early returns also indicated that other incumbents were in trouble. In the Marion County City-County Council, Republicans look poised to gain up to six seats, sending them well over their current 14-seat minority. Republican Michael McQuillen looks like he may unseat incumbent Democrat Sherron Franklin in District 12.
In Anderson, Democrat Kris Ockomon upset incumbent Mayor Kevin Smith-R.
In Muncie, with all precincts reporting, the race is still too close to call. Democrat James Mansfield Jr. leads Republican Sharon McShurley by just nine votes. Republican Mayor Dan Canan did not seek re-election after three terms.
In Kokomo, Democrats regained control of the mayor's office as Greg Goodnight beat Rick Hamilton.
In Newcastle, Jim Small-R beat out Sherman Bowles-D.
In Franklin, Independent Fred Paris upset incumbent Mayor Brenda Jones Matthews-R.
In Terre Haute, Duke Bennett-R upset Democratic incumbent Mayor Kevin Burke, and in West Lafayette, incumbent Mayor Jan Mills-D is behind, with Jon Dennis-R is winning.
In fort Wayne, with 96 percent of the precincts reporting, Democrat Tom Henry is the apparent winner over Republican Matt Kelty 60 percent to 40 percent. The campaign was dominated by the indictment of Kelty on perjury and campaign finance charges in August. Kelty denies any wrongdoing.
Among other mayoral races already decided:
Democratic incumbent Stephen Luecke has beaten Republican challenger Juan Manigault in South Bend. In Lebanon, Republican John Lasley defeated Democrat Roger Neal and independent candidate George Piper. In Tipton, Democrat Dan Delph defeated Republican Angela Grosvenor. In Beech Grove, Mayor Joe Wright keeps his seat.