Over a year before primary, battle over Lugar heats up
March 25th, 2011
09:12 AM ET
11 years ago

Over a year before primary, battle over Lugar heats up

(CNN) - Members of a major national conservative grassroots organization team up with local tea party leaders in Indiana Friday to discuss strategy on how to defeat longtime Republican Sen. Dick Lugar in next year's GOP primary. The meeting comes as the senator reaches out Saturday to other local tea party activists in Indiana.

Officials from FreedomWorks will meet with leaders from Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate, which was formed last year by tea party and other conservative activists from across Indiana to find a consensus candidate to challenge Lugar in the primary, who already faces at least one opponent from the right.

FreedomWorks is a nonprofit conservative organization based in the nation's capital that helps train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organization behind the Tea Party movement. The group also supports conservative candidates in Republican primary and general election contests.

"We are interested in helping Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate find a replacement for Senator Dick Lugar. His record of irresponsible votes on fiscal policy for the last couple of decades could be his downfall. FreedomWorks members are disappointed in his votes and are looking for a fiscally responsible alternative," Brendan Steinhauser, Director of Federal and State Campaigns for FreedomWorks, tells CNN. (Steinhauser is not related to this reporter)

The meeting is part of three days of events that FreedomWorks is holding in Indianapolis on issues ranging from the state budget and pension battles currently being waged in Indiana to workshops for conservative activists. The group Thursday gave Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels an award for what they call his dedication to rein in spending in his state.

Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate plans to hold a caucus or convention style meeting in September, to endorse a candidate to primary challenger Lugar.

Greg Fettig, who helped co-found the group, tells CNN the meetings with FreedomWorks will help "maximize the efforts of the grassroots movement here in Indiana to try and unseat Lugar."

Fettig adds that FreedomWorks "is a valuable resource to us."

Lugar met late last year in Indiana with tea arty activists. Mark Helmke, a senior advisor to the senator, told CNN recently that "the senator and staff have reached out to numerous individuals and groups saying they are members or are sympathetic to the tea party movement. Lugar sees eye to eye with them on fiscal and spending issues."

Lugar meets with an estimated 100 members of the White County, Indiana, Tea Party Saturday afternoon, according to Helmke, who says that the senator's "vocal concerns about President Obama's new war in Libya has gained the support of national tea party favorites like Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, his son Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah."

Friday morning Lugar goes on the popular WIBC Garrison radio program in Indiana, following an appearance by FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey.

Lugar, the most senior Republican member of the Senate, is running next year for a seventh term in office. He's been criticized by many tea party activists and other grass-roots conservatives for his willingness to work with Senate Democrats to seek bipartisan solutions, for his votes in favor of President Obama's Supreme Court nominees the past two years, and for his 2008 vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, better known as TARP. They were also upset with him for his early public openness last year to vote in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with Russia.

Lugar is already facing a primary challenge from the right - from Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. State Sen. Mike Delph is also considering a primary challenge. Both men are scheduled to take part in some of the FreedomWorks events this weekend.

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 likely be considered the favorite to win the general election.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: 2012 • Richard Lugar • Tea Party movement
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Karen

    It is time for Lugar to retire. He is clueless. It is sad to watch him speak. He is incoherent.

    March 25, 2011 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  2. GI Joe

    FreedomWorks is the republican version of what they got rid of for the democrats based on prejudiced, edited films by a sleazzy drug-riddled fake journalist. Hypocrits.

    March 25, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. McMurdo

    Great line..the White County, Indiana Tea Party Saturday afternoon... it paints a beautiful picture. All incumbents need to be thrown out if we really want to change the Congressional deadlock. Time to quit electing Pork bellies because they will no longer be allowed to bring home the bacon through earmarks.

    March 25, 2011 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. Gumboz1953

    With the "right" so split up, it's a great opportunity for a Democrat to waltz right in.... although it would be unfortunate for Lugar to lose his seat. He is probably the sanest voice in the Senate.

    March 25, 2011 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  5. don

    It's hard to believe the Tea Party can move so far right when they believe the world is flat, but please keep it up.

    March 25, 2011 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. superlogi

    Yeah, I think he needs to go. As time goes on, he seems to be more progressive. And that is very bad for this country and for the world. The other problem I have with the the fellow is that he just been around too long. It's time for some fresh blood.

    March 25, 2011 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  7. carlos

    roundup all the tee movement fanatics, ship them to Japan to clean up the nuclear waste, that is what they are a waste and a disgrace to America

    March 25, 2011 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  8. indydave

    These extremist regressive-conservative groups are doing themselves a big disservice by picking on the few reasonable and intelligent Republicans still extant. Lugar is one of those. I don't agree with everything he's done and every stance he has, but the man has done a huge amount of good work in foreign diplomacy, cleaning up minefields, etc.. One can at least have an intelligent, principled discussion with him on fiscal and social issues, which is a lot more than I can say for a lot of the freshman-elect this cycle. If they keep sniping at the few party members who can get along and work with other parties, they will marginalize themselves even quicker than they're already doing with the extremely short-sighted budget slash-and-burns, which will only cost more in social problems and penalty consequences within a few short years.

    March 25, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I think Lugar is going to have trouble with his primary. If he makes it through, then the Democrat will be able to pounce all over those mistakes. Just because Lugar worked with Democrats on nuclear issues doesn't make him unworthy of the Republican nomination so he can run for re-election.

    March 25, 2011 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  10. FM

    He used to be the man of wisdom, but nowadays it seems he has lost his bearings!

    March 25, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  11. ConservaFascists/FUBAR

    The only reason Sen. Lugar is being primaried is because he aligns "some" of his beliefs along with the President's. That's the problem with the Tea Party. If you support the President in any way, they are against you. Let me steal a page from Glen Beck: The Tea Party has a deep seeded hatred towards........minorities!

    March 25, 2011 10:48 am at 10:48 am |