Lugar responds to targeting by tea party group
February 9th, 2011
03:07 PM ET
12 years ago

Lugar responds to targeting by tea party group

Washington (CNN) - A senior adviser to Sen. Dick Lugar says the Indiana Republican will keep reaching out to tea party groups, even though a leading national tea party organization is now working to defeat him.

"Senator Lugar has met with Tea Party leaders and corresponded with many members in Indiana. He will continue to do so with the hope that they will support his efforts to reduce spending and create a business climate that supports job growth," senior Lugar adviser Mark Helmke told CNN Wednesday.

Helmke's comments come one day after the Tea Party Express, one of the most well known and politically active national tea party organizations, in a letter to supporters, says "as we here at the Tea Party Express prepare to unveil our Target List for the 2012 elections, it is clear that someone like this needs to go – Dick Lugar has become the epitome of what is wrong in Washington, D.C."

The email adds that "we need to build a massive warchest to win more campaigns for constitutional conservatives, and defeat people like Dick Lugar."

In the past election cycle, the Tea Party Express backed conservative candidate Joe Miller in his successful GOP primary challenge to incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who ended up defeating Miller in the general election, when she ran as a write in candidate. The group also assisted Mike Lee, who defeated incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah in the primary process and won in the general election. They also backed Christine O'Donnell in her upset of establishment Republican Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware in that state's GOP Senate nomination but she lost in the general election.

The move by the Tea Party Express against Lugar came one day after the six term Republican senator criticized those trying to oust him in next year's primary.

"I've been working systematically for 20 years going to Russia trying to help direct a situation in which we're taking warheads off of missiles every day, destroying missiles that were aimed at us; destroying submarines that carried missiles up and down our coast," he told WANE, a television station in Fort Wayne, Indiana. "I've got to say, 'Get real.'"

The most senior Republican member of the Senate has been criticized by many Tea Party activists and other grass-roots conservatives recently his early public openness to vote in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia. They are also upset with Lugar for his willingness to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions for his votes in favor of President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominees, and for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP.

The Tea Party Express email criticizes Lugar for his TARP vote, saying "Dick Lugar voted for the bailouts. He then voted against the bill that would have refunded the unused TARP bailout funds back to taxpayers."

But Helmke touts Lugar's conservative credentials, saying "many tea party organizations in Indiana "supported Senator Lugar's votes against the stimulus bill, his vocal opposition to the health care bill and his votes to block government overreach through the Dodd- Frank financial regulatory reform bill. They approve of his votes against the various Democratic Party budgets and omnibus spending bills."

Last weekend Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock said that he would soon formally announce a primary challenge to Lugar. And a group called Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate is working to find a consensus candidate to take on Lugar next year.

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

Lugar, 78, 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.

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

CNN, The Tea Party Express and other Tea Party groups are hosting a first-ever Tea Party presidential debate in Florida this fall.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: Congress • Dick Lugar
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. they call me "tater salad"

    WHERE ARE THE JOBS?????????? You a-holes said that if we just gave another big fat tax break to all of your mega-wealthy big business and big banker buddies that would eliminate all of the "uncertainty" in the marketplace and instantly begin to create JOBS?.....Well?.........Where are they? Why won't anyone answer that simple question? Why do I hear only crickets and tree frogs every time that question is asked???

    February 9, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    sorry lunar, but give it up. You are embarrassing yourself! The tea baggers are little children who should not be able to tell mommy and daddy how to run the house. These children need to be taught that children are seen not heard!

    February 9, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  3. duckbutter

    its not just lugar,,,, all those senators from both parties that have been there for 12,18,24. yrs and longer.... thats nuts .....there must be people with new and better ideasin those states that can get this county back on track... tea party or not ...we need term limits.....

    February 9, 2011 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  4. Clwyd

    That's it! Try to take down another good republican and put some nut in in his place! Notice how the new crop of repulsives messed up the 2/3 rds vote on the patriot Act last night? It needed to be stopped as it is Un-Constitutional in the first place!

    February 9, 2011 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  5. Protect and Defend Freedom of Speech in the USA

    Come on you old goat, RETIRE! You've been in there 36 YEARS. Are we better off now than we were 36 years ago? Definitely NOT, unless you're a government dependent.

    February 9, 2011 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. NVa Native

    Tea-baggers purification rituals will be the death of the Repub party.

    February 9, 2011 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. ReFascisticans

    Sen. Lugar, those Teatards are only coming after you because you helped the President get his arms deal negotiated. Plain and simple. They can care less about your politics. If you're a "republican" and aligned with the President on ANYTHING, the Teatards are going to throw a challenge your way.

    February 9, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Yes, we all know it is abhorrently wrong for someone to work across the aisle with the opposition to get things done. That is why the Tea Party should go after Joe Lieberman! Oh, wait, that's right! Joe ain't gonna run any more! Now I have to figure out a new tag line for my name, just when I finally got used to this one!

    February 9, 2011 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  9. CandyBee

    :"Target list"! ??? You've got to be kidding. Have these people had their heads in a barrel? I cannot believe the term "target" is being used by anybody!

    They have too much money and they don't have to say where they got it. I commend Lugar for voting his mind, principles, and conscience.

    February 9, 2011 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. davec.0121

    Good god – the man was actually seen consorting with known Democrats! Of course he must go. Maybe they can have him flogged on the way out. Heaven forbid that someone tries to come up with bi-partisan solutions to problems and who actually puts the welfare of the country ahead of the welfare of his party or the demands of the Tea Party. And, he was actually observed to be thinking, rather than mindlessly parroting the slogans of the ill-educated and ill-informed bloviators who seem to be the intellectual voice of the Right Wing.

    February 9, 2011 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. fayse

    It is amazing how many GOP Senators bow and scrape to the Tea Party. The tea party is a spin off of the John Birch Society and America rejected them. If more people would do some research rather than let others do their thinking for them the Tea party would fade away.

    February 9, 2011 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Rick in Phx

    It is sad but both the Democrats and Republicans seem to go after anyone that works across the aisle. Msnbc calls out all the Dems that won't walk in step with everything the president wants. Just as all the TEA Party people go after anyone that works with the Democrats. No wonder the system is getting worse. All the extremes in both parties seem to be trying to take over the country. Thank God most Americans are starting to see the light and become independent.

    February 9, 2011 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |