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Elections & Politics

Mourdock wins GOP nomination for U.S. Senate

After 36 years serving Indiana in the U.S. Senate, Dick Lugar’s political career likely came to an end Tuesday as state Treasurer Richard Mourdock secured a decisive victory. 

The surprise was perhaps not so much that Mourdock defeated Lugar, but the margin by which he beat him.  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 says 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 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.  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.”

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.  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.”

But while the Lugar-Mourdock contest grabbed a lot of the attention, it wasn’t the only significant race Tuesday evening.

In Indiana’s 5th Congressional District, where incumbent Dan Burton opted not to run again, the Republican primary was decided by less than a percentage point.  Former U.S. Attorney Susan Brooks, a first-time candidate, edged out former Congressman David McIntosh by less than 1,000 votes.  The 5th District campaign was marked by a negative ad war in which McIntosh was dogged by questions about his residency.  Brooks will face state representative Scott Reske in the fall.

Like the Mourdock victory, former State Representative Luke Messer’s win in the 6th Congressional District Primary was surprising for its size.  Challenger Travis Hankins, a Tea Party favorite, had hoped to pick up votes from the Mourdock surge.  But Messer cruised to a double-digit percentage victory and will square off against Democrat Bradley Bookout in November. 

The story was similar in the 8th Congressional District in southwest Indiana, where Republican challenger Kristi Risk, beaten in a close race in 2010, was shown the door early in the evening by now-incumbent Larry Buschon.  Buschon will face Democrat and former State Representative Dave Crooks in the general election. 

And in the 9th Congressional District, former Miss Indiana Shelli Yoder emerged from a crowded field of Democrats to face incumbent Todd Young in the November election.