NPR Story
4:37 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Sen. Richard Lugar Loses Seat To Tea Party Challenger

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 6:07 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block, with news tonight that six-term veteran Republican Sen. Richard Lugar has been defeated. The Indiana politician lost the Republican primary there to State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who was backed by the Tea Party - and who said that Lugar was not conservative enough.

NPR's Tamara Keith is at Lugar election night headquarters in Indianapolis. And she joins me now. And Tamara, the polls seemed to be indicating this would happen. And it has; Richard Lugar is out. Tell us what happened.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Indeed, he is out. And he actually just went up to the podium right now and is giving what is clearly a concession speech. You know, there were a lot of factors here but ultimately, voters decided that they wanted something new after 36 years.

BLOCK: Richard Lugar, I should say, is 80 years old. And let's talk a bit about the issues in this campaign. We mentioned the Tea Party backing for Mourdock, who also made it an issue that Lugar was not officially a resident of Indiana anymore and - if I understand this right - wasn't eligible to vote in his home district; he didn't meet the residency requirement.

KEITH: Indeed, Senator Lugar sold his home here in Indianapolis when he was elected; moved to a Washington, D.C., suburb, and lived his life there. He continued to vote in Indiana, continued to come back on a regular basis, and had legal information that said that that was OK. Then, this year, his right to vote was revoked. He ultimately straightened that out by re-registering from his family's farm. But it really drove home the problems that he faced in this campaign, of - you know, he was being accused of being a Washington insider, and having been there too long.

(SOUNDBITE OF BACKGROUND APPLAUSE)

KEITH: And that hit it home, made it - sent it home to the voters. And many people were bothered by that.

BLOCK: Yeah. And we're hearing the applause there at Lugar headquarters. It's got to be an emotional night for them. Richard Lugar has been an easy winner in Indiana, going all the way back to the 1970s. What are you hearing from people?

KEITH: Well, and in fact - you know - six years ago, he didn't even have a Democratic opponent in the general election. So this is just a major change for him. You know, the mood is quite somber here.

BLOCK: And talk a little bit about Richard Lugar's record in the Senate.

KEITH: Well, you know, he has - over the years - been chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And that - you know, his greatest legacy, many will say, is the Lugar non-amendment that worked on nuclear non-proliferation with the former Soviet Union. And people I've spoken to say that that is going to be a lasting legacy, where he reached across party lines to make that happen.

BLOCK: Well, Richard Lugar is out. Richard Mourdock, the Republican, will be going up in November against Democrat Joe Donnelly, a member of the House. And is there any indication that moderates, or independent voters, may turn to the Democrat; may, you know, let - lodge a protest vote against Richard Mourdock?

KEITH: You know, that's not clear yet. But certainly, Donnelly is what you would call a moderate Democrat. He definitely leans to the right of the Democratic Party. And Mourdock leans to the right of the Republican Party. But he, you know - a lot of people are saying this is a pretty Republican state, and that's not going to change. On the other hand, Democrats are sort of salivating at the chance. They believe they have a shot at this seat now.

BLOCK: OK. NPR's Tamara Keith in Indianapolis, at Richard Lugar's election night headquarters, where he is delivering his concession speech. The six-term Republican in the Senate lost his primary bid today. Tamara, thanks so much.

KEITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.