After 36 years, Richard Lugar’s time in the U.S. Senate will come to an end. Lugar was beaten in Tuesday’s primary by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Lugar had not faced a primary opponent since he was first elected in 1976. Mourdock brought that challenge with significant Tea Party backing, and it helped carry him to victory in the Republican primary.
The surprise from Tuesday’s results was perhaps not so much that Mourdock defeated Lugar but the margin by which he beat him.The six-term incumbent was dogged in the campaign by questions about his Indiana residency and whether he was conservative enough for the far-right wing of the Republican Party.
Leading into Tuesday, the momentum appeared to be trending Mourdock’s way – an independent poll released just days before the election put Mourdock ten points ahead of the incumbent senator, but the final margin was nearly double that.
Mourdock said his victory represents the beginning of a new time for the Republican Party.
“You know, we began this campaign with the idea, yes, that we wanted to move the Senate to a more conservative place but much more than that, we want to move this country to a better place,” Mourdock said.
Mourdock took time to acknowledge and thank Lugar, praising the long-time senator for his service. In his concession speech, Lugar’s focus was not on the us-versus-them mentality Mourdock has pushed, but rather on the need to repair what he calls the nation’s deep political divide.
“These divisions have stalemated progress in critical areas,” Lugar said. “But these divisions are not insurmountable and I believe that people of goodwill, regardless of party, can work together for the benefit of our country.”
Lugar also indicated that his public service is not finished.
“I look forward to what can be achieved in the Senate in the next eight months despite a very difficult national election atmosphere,” he said.
As Lugar spoke about his future out of the political arena, Mourdock’s focus turned to November’s general election, as the Tea-Party backed Republican’s aim is now on Democrat Joe Donnelly.
“Somewhere across this town I’m sure the Democrats are gathered around Mr. Donnelly,” Mourdock said. “They’re excited about the potential he’s going to bring to this race. Well Mr. Donnelly has been close to Barack Obama for the last several years. We’re going to make that record clear and it’s not going to be accepted by the voters of Indiana in November.”