The End Of An Era: Republican Sen. Richard Lugar Defeated In Indiana Primary

on May 09 2012 12:17 AM

Six-term Sen. Dick Lugar was defeated in Indiana's Republican primary Tuesday by Tea Party-backed State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, marking the end of an era for one of the Senate's longest serving members.

Also in Indiana, Mitt Romney won the state's Republican presidential primary, along with those in North Carolina and West Virginia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Lugar, an Indiana senator for 35 years and previously mayor of Indianapolis, was viewed as a relatively moderate and bipartisan force in the Senate, where he was known to focus more on international affairs than on the quotidian politics and squabbling that some of his peers favored, the Wall Street Journal wrote.

While Dick and I didn't always agree on everything, President Barack Obama told the New York Times, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle and get things done.

The Times described Lugar, 80, as a collegial moderate who personified a gentler era. He was a popular senator, and he won most of his recent elections handily, with margins usually exceeding 60 percent of the vote -- until this year.

Mourdock was backed by national Tea Party-affiliated groups and conservative organizations, according to the Times, including Club for Growth, the National Rifle Association and FreedomWorks, which gave millions of dollars to his campaign -- and which portrayed Lugar as too moderate, too eager to compromise and too close to Obama.

The Tea Party movement claimed Mourdock's win as another in a series of victories, adding him to its list of 2010 winners, including Rand Paul in Kentucky, Mike Lee in Utah and Marco Rubio in Florida, who all defeated more establishment Republicans. But not all Tea Party upstarts went on to win in their general elections -- such candidates lost in Colorado, Delaware, Nevada and Alaska in 2010.  

Democrats were quick to portray Mourdock as too conservative and out of touch with mainstream voters -- and too partisan.

The more Republicans embrace the Tea Party and its candidates, the more they damage their chances in November, the Wall Street Journal quoted Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

As to the New York Times noted, the Democrats believe Mourdock's nomination gives their candidate, Rep. Joe Donnelly, an opening to capture the Indiana seat.

Hoosiers deserve real leadership that will reach across the aisle in Richard Lugar's successor, not Richard Mourdock's Tea Party extremism, Dan Parker, the chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, told the Times.

The Republicans portray the election results differently.

Richard Mourdock's victory truly sends a message to the liberals in the Republican Party, Chris Chocola, a former Indiana congressman and now president of the Club for Growth, told the Times. Voters are rejecting the policies that led to record debt and diminished economic freedom.

Lugar was widely known for working with Democratic former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn on a program that disarmed thousands of nuclear missiles in the former Soviet Union, and he was also a mentor of sorts to then-Sen. Barack Obama, when the future president was a junior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Sens. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., are the only remaining senators who have served longer than Lugar. (Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also was elected in 1976.) The 80-year-old senator also competed for the GOP presidential nomination in 1996, and he won his 2006 election with 87 percent of the vote, a victory that marked his last one as a political untouchable, the Journal wrote.

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