First on CNN: Major tea party group backs Lugar challenger
September 28th, 2011
05:51 PM ET
11 years ago

First on CNN: Major tea party group backs Lugar challenger

(CNN) - A leading national tea party group Thursday will endorse a conservative candidate who is primary challenging longtime Republican Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana.

CNN's learned that the Tea Party Express will endorse state Treasurer Richard Mourdock at a news conference in Indiana.

"Over the years, Senator Lugar has repeatedly failed to address the fiscal crisis facing our country – voting for more wasteful spending and growth of government at every opportunity. At the same time, he has treated the Tea Party – one of the most impactful political movements in decades – with contempt and disdain," says Tea Party Express chair Amy Kremer, in a statement obtained by CNN.

"Our decision to endorse Richard Mourdock for Senate was easy. Unlike Lugar, he believes in fiscal responsibility and accountability. He supports a government bound by the limits of the Constitution, and has an impressive record of fighting for conservative ideals."

The endorsement from the Tea Party Express comes less than one week after Mourdock won the backing from 55 local tea party groups from across Indiana, at a convention held last weekend by an organization called Hoosiers for a Conservative Senate.

A spokesman for Lugar downplayed the influence the endorsement might have in the race.

"This is no news for the campaign that an outside-of-Indiana organization would like to come in and influence what the voters of Indiana think, and should think," Lugar's political director David Willkie said Wednesday. "Dick Lugar is a Hoosier, he works hard, he shows up for work. He represents Indiana extremely well in the U.S. Senate and he has continued to do that throughout his career."

The Tea Party Express has already this year endorsed Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, in that state's Senate primary battle to find a GOP challenger to Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson. And the group supported Republican candidate Robert Turner in this month's special House election for an open seat in New York's ninth congressional district. Turner upset the Democratic candidate in district long dominated by Democrats.

The Tea Party Express, known nationally for its numerous cross country bus tours, has become a player in GOP primary politics. In the last 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 group, which also co-hosted a first ever tea party Republican presidential debate with CNN earlier this month in Tampa, Florida, says it's going to put its clout behind Mourdock.

"Tea Party Express is going to work hard to make sure Mourdock is the next Tea Party Champion in the Senate, and Lugar is headed home to retirement where he belongs," adds Kremer.

Some other national fiscal conservative groups, like FreedomWorks and Club for Growth, are also trying to unseat Lugar, as he battles for a seventh term in the Senate. The assistance could come in handy for Mourdock, who was far behind Lugar, as of the second quarter, in the battle for campaign cash.

Lugar is the most senior Republican member of the Senate. 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.

The 79 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.

The GOP primary is set for May 8, 2012.

Rep. Joe Donnelly is currently the only announced Democratic candidate in the race.

- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

Filed under: Dick Lugar • Indiana • Tea Party Express
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Steve- Illinois

    35 years is too long for any politician to be in office!

    September 28, 2011 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    "A leading national tea party group Thursday will endorse a conservative candidate who is primary challenging longtime Republican Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana."

    So, in other words, one Republican is giving a primary challenge to another Republican? A new concept, CNN, or just misguided reporting? The TeaParty is Republican - much in the same manner that Progressives are Democratic.

    September 28, 2011 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  3. Mikey

    "the Tea Party – one of the most impactful political movements in decades"

    Agreed. The only problem is that except in limited ways, their impact has been decidedly negative.

    Anger, hate, and disrespect are not American values.

    September 28, 2011 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    The Koch Brothers are getting all their little ducks in a row via the Tea Party. Ousting Conservatives that believe and understand the importance of compromise.
    Notice who is being forced out to make room for inexperienced, bought, pupppets. The better to serve their corporate masters with.

    September 28, 2011 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  5. durundal

    so trump up sum bull, and get rid of the cooler heads in your part. Just because Lugar is willing to work across the aisles and has not joined the ranks of the economic terrorists, and is flexible enough to understand multiple points of view means he has to go? I really hope people will wake up and crush the tea party

    September 28, 2011 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  6. MTATL67

    After the Republican/Tea party debate in Florida I would not want that un-American extremist group near me. Lord who knows they would want to die next. I would not want their un-patriotic BS sticking to me. Boo a defender of American freedom and chanting “Let him die” – y’alls American values are not right.

    September 28, 2011 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  7. Mitzie

    Why would they want a leader who knows what he is doing and has proven himself to be competent, intelligent, and thoughtful. No... we should have another Tea Party drone. Yeah...that's the ticket!

    September 28, 2011 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    This will be interesting. Let's see how the Tea Party kiss of death plays out within the Republican Party now that the Tea Party has shown its' true hand.

    September 28, 2011 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  9. belinda

    The tea party are a bunch of bums.They claim to be fiscally conservative, yet they give the rich expensive tax breaks,support mortgage tax deduction. Quit being a bunch of BUMS. END CORPORATE WELFARE FOR THE RICH!!!!!!! END ALL TAX BREAKS FOR THE RICH!!!!!!! YOU ARE ALL NOTHING BUT A BUNCH OF BUMS!!!!!!! . Quit bumming off the middle class!!!!!!!!! We are sick of these lies!!!!!!!! BUMS!!!!!!!

    September 28, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  10. Sonnie2

    You mean to say Lugar is a RINO, Well then let's get about the business of replaceing him and all RINO'S

    September 28, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  11. Sonnie2

    He is to old to have much common sense anymore. It is past pasture time for lugar

    September 28, 2011 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  12. Ron

    Tea party endorsement doesn't mean much of anything this time around. Overplayed their hands and are now just a worthless bunch of right-winged, disgruntled fools.

    September 28, 2011 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  13. drogo, the stallion that mounts the world almost

    Howdy Doody is toast.

    September 28, 2011 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  14. T'sah from Virginia

    Oh Pahleeeeezzzzzzeeee!!! Who cares!!

    September 28, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  15. J.V.hodgson

    Whether its a tea party candidiate or not He may still win, and likely to do so.
    Term limits will not work In America as I guess they'd be balked at as unconstitutional... they are elected after all.
    However I see no reason why Senators or Representative should not be forced to retire at 65 Like most workers do. you can figure out transitional rules if the last term takes a Sentor or Rep beyond age 65. Like if you are 62 Plus on election date It means 3 months before your 65th Birthday a new state election to replace you . etc etc
    After that term limits of 12 years Senate or 8 years in the house might work but I doubt it.

    September 29, 2011 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  16. J.V.hodgson

    Lugar may still win but in my opinion just like all normal workers he should have to retire at 65 same for House reps.
    After that gets thru you can think about term limits but methinks they will never happen.

    September 29, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  17. carlos

    there is no such thing as a major tea....whatever they call them....they are TEARRORISTS

    September 29, 2011 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  18. Marry

    To offset the massive drive of the TP the DNC has to greatly intensify the support for excellent candidates whenever there are open seats or elections to be held! Full support for candidates that have a conviction to Democratic principles and are capable to define and articulate the differences between them and the GOP/TP! Honestly convincing people to get out and vote! AGAINST greed, selfishness, propaganda and the “pledges” that mean nothing for them and everything for the rich! Only most of the Democrats FIGHT FOR a better future for all!

    September 29, 2011 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  19. NoTags

    I am 100% anti tea party, however all of these entrenched politicians like Lugar need to be replaced. We know that Congress will NEVER impose term limits on themselves, so it's past time for voters to start imposing term limits at the ballot box.

    September 29, 2011 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  20. wgf

    Another thoughtful, articulate and well respected Republican headed for the chopping block. There aren't many of them left. As an independent, he is someone I voted for. As an independent, it seems increasingly unlikely that I will ever vote for a Republican again.

    September 29, 2011 07:46 am at 7:46 am |