Longest serving Senate Republican fighting to keep seat
April 11th, 2012
12:24 PM ET
3 years ago

Longest serving Senate Republican fighting to keep seat

(CNN) – It's been 12 years since Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar faced off in a campaign debate.

That streak ends Wednesday night when the most senior Republican member of the Senate shares the stage with his conservative GOP challenger, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, at a debate in Indianapolis that will be televised statewide in Indiana.

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The six-term senator has not faced a primary challenge since first winning election to the Senate in 1976, and six years ago he ran un-opposed for re-election. The last time he debated was in his 2000 re-election.

But this time around Lugar faces a serious challenge from Mourdock, who has strong backing from local and national tea party groups as well as from such major organizations as the powerful National Rifle Association and the fiscal conservative Club for Growth. Both groups went up with campaign commercials this week supporting Mourdock.

Lugar's been criticized by many tea party activists and other grass-roots conservatives for his willingness in the past to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions, for his votes in favor of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees, and for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP. They are also upset with Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, for his early public openness to vote in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia.

Lugar, the former mayor of Indianapolis who turned 80 last week, did oppose President Obama's health care reform measure, voting against the Affordable Health Care Act. And like most Republicans, he's a supporter of the controversial Keystone pipeline project.

Lugar's opponents, as well as state and national Democrats, are trying to portray the longtime senator as a Washington insider. Lugar's residency in Indiana has been repeatedly questioned in the past, but the senator beat back a challenge in February when the Indiana Election Commission determined he wasn't required to be a resident of Indiana to appear on the ballot – as he had been serving the state as senator while living away from the state. Lugar has lived in McLean, Virginia since the sale of his Indianapolis home in 1977.

And last month, an election commission in Indianapolis ruled Lugar was ineligible to vote in his former precinct because he no longer resided at the address on his voter registration.

Lugar's trying to turn the argument back on Mourdock. In a campaign commercial running statewide this week, Mourdock's accused of selling out to "DC outsiders."

Wednesday night's debate is the only one before the May 8 primary. If Lugar may be rusty when it comes to debates, Mourdock is even more out of practice. He didn't debate in his 2006 election to state treasurer or his re-election in 2010. The last time he's faced off in a debate was his unsuccessful 1992 bid for Congress.

A poll released last week indicated Lugar with a single digit lead over Mourdock. Democrats see an opening, hoping that a Mourdock victory will make the race more competitive in November. The winner of the GOP primary will face off against Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in the general election.

Democrats currently have a 53 to 47 advantage in the Senate, including two independents who caucus with the party. But the Democrats are defending 23 of the 33 seats in the chamber that are up for grabs this November.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report

Also see:

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Crossroads GPS to drop $1.7 million against Obama


Filed under: Congress • Indiana • Richard Lugar
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. The Real Truth and Nothing But the The Real Truth

    80 years old and 36 years in DC??? ENOUGH!! Time for some new blood. The country needs to take a new direction toward fiscal sanity.

    April 11, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  2. Rudy NYC

    Why are they picking on the old guy? Only bullies pick on the old, the weak, or the defenseless.

    April 11, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. insight iowa

    Long enough... to many in Washington have been bought and sold to the point that no one is winning but the wealthy.

    April 11, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  4. malcolm Spence

    The issue is not age or longevity in office. The fact is, there is no room in the Republican party for reasonably minded people. Lugar will be gone in the primary to satisfy the TeaPubs, and in the general election the Dems will propose someone who does not scare away the middle of the road voters.

    The TeaPubs will draw their (wrong) conclusions and rant, and maybe the President gets a bigger majority. Game over and thanks to the Tea Party and their flat earth friends..

    April 11, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. Steve- Illinois

    The number one problem with our government is these career politicians! If this is the results of your 36 years of expertise, it's time to step aside!

    April 11, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Jon

    The guy thinks we should continue to borrow money from China and hand it over as a gift to Pakistan, a country that actively sponsors and shelters people who want to kill Americans. That right there disqualifies him from getting my vote.

    April 11, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    "Why are they picking on the old guy? Only bullies pick on the old, the weak, or the defenseless."
    ------
    No one is "picking on him". It's a matter of recognizing when it's time for a change. You see, if one subscribes to the theory that politicians start becoming corrupt on day 1, then this codger is far beyond ripe.

    April 11, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    No one is "picking on him". It's a matter of recognizing when it's time for a change. You see, if one subscribes to the theory that politicians start becoming corrupt on day 1, then this codger is far beyond ripe.
    ----------------
    He votes the party line. They're picking on him, and your name calling is proof positive. The man does his job and serves the party faithfully [whew, that sounds socialist], so why can't he stay? Because he's an old codger and it's time for a change?

    April 11, 2012 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. SUBS 4 VOTES

    Truth of the matter is that Sen. Lugar is only being primaried because once upon time in the U.S. Senate, he worked alongside our current President in efforts to lockdown all loose nuclear materials. I think you should be rewarded for bipartisanship, not primaried.

    April 11, 2012 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  10. Al-NY,NY

    Lugar's been criticized by many tea party activists and other grass-roots conservatives for his willingness in the past to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions, for his votes in favor of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees, and for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP. They are also upset with Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, for his early public openness to vote in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia.
    -----

    oh heaven forbid!!! He actually speaks and works WITH democrats.....enough for the fanatics to say "you gotta go" What a bunch of ..........

    April 11, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |