Richard Mourdock has defeated longtime Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana in the Republican primary, according to an Associated Press projection, ending the career of one of the Senate’s most pragmatic politicians and casting a cloud over GOP efforts to win control of the chamber.
Mourdock, state treasurer in Indiana, campaigned as a conservative alternative to Lugar. He became a darling of the tea party movement after he began a legal challenge to the terms of the Obama administration’s bailout of Chrysler.
Mourdock was endorsed by Sarah Palin and Rep. Michele Bachmann, and Lugar had the backing of the party establishment, including Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Mourdock will face Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, a three-term congressman from the South Bend area, this fall. The matchup is the preferred outcome for Democrats, who view Lugar’s ouster as an opportunity to pick up a longtime Republican seat.
“Richard Mourdock is this year’s Ken Buck,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil. Buck was a tea-party-backed Republican who upset the establishment favorite in the GOP primary in Colorado in 2010, only to lose in November. “Tonight’s results make the Indiana Senate race a toss-up.”
Lugar had warned Indiana voters that choosing Mourdock would thwart Republican efforts to take control of the Senate. Democrats will be defending 23 Senate seats in November – compared with 10 for the GOP – but just a handful are considered truly up for grabs.
Lugar, known as one of the more centrist members of the Senate, was befriended by Barack Obama during his time in the Senate. Obama touted the friendship during his 2008 campaign for president, angering some of Lugar’s constituents.
The Senate’s longest-serving Republican, Lugar also suffered a blow earlier this year when a panel in Indiana ruled that he was ineligible to vote in his former home district because he no longer lived there.
Lugar and his wife live in a Virginia suburb of Washington. They sold their Indianapolis home after Lugar joined the Senate in 1977, but he had continued to list the address on voter registration records. Lugar appealed the decision and ultimately agreed to register using the address of his Indiana farm.
Lisa Mascaro in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.