Monday, May 09, 2011

Donnelly Looking Forward To Running Against Lugar, Not Mourdock

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly is expected to make official today his plan to seek the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Richard Lugar. Contrary to the thinking of some political pundits, Donnelly hopes to face Lugar and not Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Lugar is seeking an unprecedented seventh term to the seat he captured from former Sen. Vance Hartke in 1976. While Democrats expect Lugar to take a beating in his primary bid against Mourdock, who is backed by more than two-thirds of the party's county chairs, they are hoping to wage a campaign focused on a long-time incumbent out of touch with Hoosiers. The silver bullet issue Democrats will use to bring home that point is the issue of Lugar's residency. Many Democrats were stunned to learn that Lugar no longer maintains a residence in Indiana and has been voting for decades at a home he long ago sold. Emboldened by their ongoing challenge of Secretary of State Charlie White's eligibility to hold office based upon the argument he voted in a precinct in which he didn't reside, the Lugar residency challenge is a no-brainer. Don't be surprised if a legal challenge against Lugar's residency issue is mounted if he is successful in winning re-nomination next year.

Although the residency issue has been ignored by the mainstream media in Indiana, it is a potentially explosive issue. Lugar contends that Indiana law permits him to rely on the residence he established at the time of his initial election to the Senate back in 1976, even though he long ago gave up that residency. The U.S. Constitution requires a lower standard of residency for Senate candidates. It requires a candidate to be an "inhabitant" as opposed to a "resident" at the time of his or her election. The word "inhabitant" was chosen out of concern "resident" would exclude persons who are absent from the state for personal or public business. Even if Lugar can overcome a challenge that he is not an "inhabitant" of the state for purposes of eligibility to hold the office, he still faces the same problem Charlie White is now facing. Democrats will argue Lugar has committed voter fraud under state law by casting a vote in a precinct in which he has not maintained a residence for decades. If Lugar had simply relied on his Marion Co. farmhouse or a rented apartment for voting purposes, this would not be an issue; however, it is undisputed he has not owned or resided at the home at which he has been casting votes in Indiana elections for decades. Lugar Senate aide Mark Helmke acknowledged to reporters earlier this year that Lugar stays in a hotel when he is back home in Indiana. Democrats won't let that issue pass without a fight, politically or legally. Mourdock could raise the issue himself, but he has so far avoided making it. That could change depending on how the Charlie White issue is resolved.


Vox Populi said...

This Democrat would vote for Lugar over Donnelly, but under no circumstance would vote for Mourdock. I don't think Dems want to run against Lugar. I think he's preparing for a very destructive Republican primary from which Mourdock emerges broke and battered.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Vox, Lugar simply doesn't have much in the way of grass roots support. He may win the primary, but it will be the same way Goldsmith defeated Early in 1996, a bombardment of media.

The Dems beat Goldsmith in 1996 exactly because he didn't have the grass roots support within in his own party that an Early would have had.

I think the D's would rather run against Lugar, especially since Lugar may well have residency problems as he's been voting claiming someone else's residence for 30 plus years.

Advance Indiana said...

Early didn't have very strong grassroots support, Paul. Many people who personally liked Rex didn't take him seriously as a gubernatorial candidate. That's why he lost. He thought he had won a lot of favors from people from being state party chairman, but those people weren't there to help him when he needed it. Dick Lugar didn't even help him and Rex had chaired his re-election campaign.