Lugar heads home to begin fight for re-election
January 21st, 2011
03:54 PM ET
12 years ago

Lugar heads home to begin fight for re-election

(CNN) - It appears longtime Republican Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana is ready for a fight.

On Friday night, hours before a major meeting of Tea Party and other conservative leaders from around the state to try and limit the number of candidates who may challenge Lugar, the six term senator who's up for re-election next year is holding his first big fundraiser in Indiana this cycle.

Senior Lugar Adviser Mark Helmke tells CNN that more than 420 people are expected to attend the fundraiser, which is expected to bring in more than $400,000.

"This is still the year before the year, and I can't recall a time when there's been this vigorous activity in Indiana in regards to a Senate campaign," Lugar told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

As for Saturday's meeting, Lugar, who officially announced earlier this week that he's running for re-election, says, "I take any opposition seriously."

The most senior Republican member of the Senate has been criticized by some grassroots conservatives and by some potential GOP challengers for his willingness to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions for his votes in favor of confirming Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor - President Barack Obama's two nominees to the Supreme Court - for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP or the Wall Street bailout, and most recently, his early public openness to vote in favor of the START treaty with Russia.

Lugar met last month in Indianapolis with local Tea Party leaders but apparently did little to persuade them of his conservative credentials. The two-hour meeting, which took place over breakfast on December 13 at a Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis, was described by participants on both sides as "cordial." But the Tea Party activists left vowing to oppose Lugar's bid for a seventh term.

Greg Fettig, the co-founder of Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate, attended that meeting. The group was formed to find a conservative primary challenger to Lugar. He expects a strong showing at Saturday's conference.

"We now have 80 Tea Parties from around the state represented, which is over 90 percent of all known Tea Party groups in Indiana. The last few days have seen hundreds of people calling in trying to get a seat at the meeting. Most are individuals, or leaders of conservative but non tea party groups, and some are county level GOP office holders," Fettig tells CNN.

Some Tea Party leaders say they would could support either state Sen. Mike Delph or state Treasurer Richard Mourdock if they mount challenges to Lugar.

The winner of the May 8, 2012 GOP primary would most likely be considered the favorite to win the general election.

Some on the right in Indiana still have a bad taste from last year's Senate primary, when former Sen. Coats Dan Coats won a three way contest over more conservative candidates Rep. John Hostettler and state Sen. Marlin Stutzman, who is now a congressman. Coats ended up easily winning the general election over Rep. Brad Ellsworth to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh.

The 78 year-old lawmaker was first elected to the Senate in 1976 after serving as mayor of Indianapolis. Lugar did not face a primary challenge in 2006 and won 87 percent of the vote in the general election, facing only a libertarian candidate.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: Dick Lugar • Indiana
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Sniffit

    So Mr. Lugar:

    This time will you not run on racism, hate, and bigotry?

    January 21, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  2. more lies from HUSSENI obama

    do me a favor, tell that Dem that that if Repubs are nazi then he is a jewish devil and he is satan in diguise and should understand that jews that work for the anti-christ shall not get redemption in 2012

    January 21, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  3. XWngLady

    I am a Democrat. And although I don't agree with most of his policies, I respect Senator Lugar, because I believe that he sincerely wants to do what he feels is right for Americans. I've never heard him be disrespectful to anyone, he'll buck his party's trend if he has to, and he knows his stuff. Still wouldn't vote for him over the Democrat, but if we had to have a Republican, he's better than most.

    January 21, 2011 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  4. An Honest American

    The President should name him to a Defense Department post to continue his practice of a politically diverse team.

    And to the Right winger above that wrote "more lies from Husseni obama"; a couple of things

    1.) All the Democrat did was call the GOP out for lying and then RETELLING the lie over and over in an attempt to Svengali the "low-information-voter" into believing it. For that, he deserves our thanks as Americans

    2.) Can you tell me if Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, or John Thune each believe that the world will come to an end in 2012?

    This is not a joke of a question since MANY evangelicals believe this to be true. I think the American public has a right to know where these candidates, each of whom is courting the vote of that special interest group, stand on that point.

    January 21, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Ain't life strange?

    @ An Honest American... that's a very good question. Who of the evangelicals in the GOP believe the world would end in 2012? I mean... if the world is, in fact, going to end in 2012 why run for office?

    As far as point number one, comparing the GOP to Nazi's was the wrong tool to use to make his point. None the less, the point is valid. If you keep repeating a lie over and over, people will begin to believe it.

    Lastly, as for the right winger above that you mentioned... ignore him. He'll go away.

    January 21, 2011 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. PalmReader

    Whatever are the Republicans thinking to primary Lugar? Boehner and Company really need to get a handle on their party members. First Bachmann demanding more and more power, and now a Lugar primary candidate in the works. One month into the new GOP and the fireworks are already starting.

    January 21, 2011 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Jim

    Wow. The election just ended, and he's already in campaign mode. How incredibly dedicated to his job as a Sena... oh, wait, HE'S NOT! He only cares about re-election. And this is what we put into office, on both sides of the aisle...

    January 21, 2011 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |