Lugar primary loss a Tea Party victory

Six-term Senator Richard Lugar lost in Indiana's Republican primary to Richard Mourdock, a challenger backed by the tea party movement.

Journal & Courier/AP
Republican US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock urges his supporters to get to the polls on Tuesday as he makes a campaign stop Monday at Immanuel Reformed Presbyterian Church near Battle Ground, Ind. Mourdock is running against incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar.

Indiana will get a new look in Washington next year after tea party-favorite Richard Mourdock knocked off six-term incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican Senate primary and voters in at least three U.S. House districts prepared to elect fresh faces.

Another tea party favorite, Jackie Walorski in northern Indiana's 2nd District, was expected to win the GOP nomination in the district now represented by Democrat Joe Donnelly, who turned his sights to the Senate and will face Mourdock in November.

Luke Messer won the GOP nomination for the 6th District seat Mike Pence gave up to run for governor.

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Republican Pence and Democrat John Gregg won their parties' nominations to take the place of term-limited Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, and Republican Mitt Romney cruised to victory in Indiana's Republican presidential primary, easily outpolling Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. Santorum and Gingrich had remained on the Indiana ballot despite having ended their campaigns.

Indiana's other congressional vacancy was created by Dan Burton, who decided to retire.

Although Lugar entered the Senate race heavily favored and much better funded than Mourdock, outside groups poured millions into the race, attacking Lugar on his record and questioning whether he was eligible to vote in the state where he hadn't had a home since being elected to the Senate in 1977.

The 80-year-old Lugar had never faced a primary challenge in his Senate career and was slow to respond to attacks from conservatives unhappy with his voting record and longevity in Washington. Conservative critics say he ceded too much ideological ground during his four decades in Washington, but changes within his own party contributed to his downfall as Indiana Republicans increasingly turned to more socially conservative leaders.

Lugar said Tuesday before the polls closed that he believed the people behind that cash really "couldn't care less for either of the candidates, Mourdock and myself — they're eager to show their clout, their ability to terminate careers or change the landscape."

"Indiana was the only playground available to demonstrate this," he said. "That's my misfortune to be in sort of a unique situation."

Some Indianapolis voters who weighed in at a southeast side polling station before work Tuesday said they felt it was time for a change in Washington and agreed with tea party activists on those and other issues.

Chris Creech, 27, a systems administrator at an insurance company, said he voted for Lugar in past elections but voted for Mourdock in this year's GOP primary because he felt Lugar had become too liberal.

"I just think Lugar has become less conservative over the years and I think it's time for someone new," he said after voting at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.

Maurice Whittemore, 50, a state employee and registered Republican, said he had respected Lugar's knowledge on defense issue but felt he had become too willing to compromise on legislation before the Senate.

"He's from the old school, where they like to compromise. And compromise is OK except when you're doing it and you know you're not going to get anything in return but are just hoping you will," Whittemore said.

The races to succeed Burton and Pence drew crowded fields in the two heavily Republican districts. Seven other candidates besides Messer were on the GOP ballot for the nomination to take Pence's seat in eastern Indiana's 6th District.

Another big field sought the Republican nomination to replace Burton. The highest-profile candidates were former Rep. David McIntosh, former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, two-time Burton challenger John McGoff and Marion Mayor Wayne Seybold.

RECOMMENDED: Six 2012 Senate races where the tea party counts

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