Veteran Republican Senator Lugar defeated in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS Tue May 8, 2012 10:27pm EDT

1 of 2. Republican U.S. Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana addresses supporters in a cafe in Crawfordsville, Indiana in this file photo taken February 24, 2012. Voters in Indiana go to the polls on Tuesday to decide the fate of one of longest-serving U.S. senators in what is seen as a major test of strength for the conservative Tea Party movement. Lugar faces the first primary challenge in his 35-year political career in Washington and is now the underdog against Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, a fiscal conservative who has surged in recent polls.

Credit: Reuters/Nick Carey/Files

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Senator Richard Lugar, a 35-year veteran of the Senate and leading foreign policy voice, was defeated in the Indiana Republican primary by a Tea Party-backed challenger on Tuesday, the first Senate incumbent ousted in the 2012 election year.

Lugar conceded defeat to challenger Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who attacked the soft-spoken Senator for votes in support of Democratic President Barack Obama.

"My public service is not concluded," Lugar told supporters in Indianapolis. "I look forward to what can be achieved in the Senate in the next eight months despite a very difficult national election atmosphere."

The defeat of Lugar gives a boost to the Tea Party movement, which wants to force deep cuts in government spending and reduce the size of the federal government.

The outcome also gives Democrats an unexpected opportunity to win a Republican-held seat in November's elections. Democrats are clinging to a 53-47 advantage in the Senate but have many more incumbents standing for re-election than Republicans.

When Lugar, 80, last ran for re-election in 2006, he was seen as so invincible that Democrats did not field an opponent.

But the soft-spoken senator, who is the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, saw the atmosphere of Congress change dramatically in recent years to gridlock.

After the arrival of the conservative insurgent Tea Party movement on the political scene, Lugar's long track record of bipartisanship and foreign policy expertise were out of fashion.

His votes for Obama's Supreme Court appointees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan riled conservatives, as had the fact that he had not lived in Indiana since 1977.

Mourdock said Lugar had lost touch with Indiana Republicans, who were looking for change. Conservatives labeled Lugar as Obama's favorite Republican. Mourdock will face Democratic Congressman Joe Donnelly in the November election.

"They want to see someone who is willing to take a stand to challenge the Obama agenda," Mourdock said earlier on Tuesday while greeting voters at a church in Avon, a suburb of Indianapolis.

Lugar had bemoaned the amount of money being spent on the race by outsiders, most of it on Mourdock.

Super PACs, the unregulated vehicle for a surge in campaign financing this year, poured about $4.6 million into the Indiana Senate primary, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

More than $3 million of that total went for ads supporting Mourdock or attacking Lugar, paid for by conservative groups such as Club for Growth, the National Rifle Association and Koch Industries-backed FreedomWorks For America.

While Lugar was backed by popular Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and Senate colleague John McCain, many conservatives backed Mourdock.

They included former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. Most Tea Party groups in Indiana also campaigned for Mourdock.

(Reporting by Nick Carey and Eric Johnson; Additional reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Greg McCune, Vicki Allen and Lisa Shumaker)

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Comments (45)
flashrooster wrote:
The continuing radicalization of the Republican Party. Republican voters, frustrated with Congress not being able to get things done, nominates someone who wants to make the process even less functional. Wait! Don’t tell me, let me guess. Mourdock is a devout Christian who has give his life to Christ. Jesus must be really embarrassed.

May 08, 2012 8:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
worcester wrote:
For 40 years Lugar was happily watching the Congress rape and pillage the American people. He did little to stem the relentless spending of public funds to levels far exceeding the taxpayers ability to pay, spending us into a hole from which this nation cannot extricate itself without the massive devaluation of the dollar. He deserved to be thrown out of office as do most members of Congress during the past 30 years.

May 08, 2012 9:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
tiktin wrote:
I think you need to be careful about using the Tea Party label. Mourdock was supported by Dick Armey’s Freedom Works. Armey is a career politician and the ultimate Washington insider who represents the extreme right wing of the republican party. This is not quite the same thing as the Tea Party, which consists mainly of ordinary citizens who are sick and tired of having the government interfere in their lives. Armey and the Tea Party do share many beliefs on domestic policy, but Mourdock came out against the START treaty, which is definitely not a Tea Party position. The litmus test is going to be whether Mourdock comes out for Ron Paul or Milt Romney. Romney is definitely not the choice of the Tea Party.

May 08, 2012 9:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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