(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Richard Lugar, the third-longest-serving member of the Senate, went down in a primary defeat Tuesday night to his Tea Party-backed opponent in the Republican primary.
State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, backed by Tea Partiers and conservative campaign groups outside the state, ousted Lugar in Indiana’s GOP primary, according to projections.
Mourdock will face Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in November.
In Lugar, the Senate would lose one of its few remaining members with a habit of bipartisanship. In Mourdock, Lugar has been unseated by a mild-mannered, twice-elected statewide official who wants to eliminate five federal departments and cut more spending than House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., would.
Lugar’s loss made history. Among senators who had served at least six terms, only one had lost in a primary before Lugar: Kenneth McKeller, D-Tenn., who joined the Senate in 1917 and lost to Democratic primary challenger Al Gore, Sr. in 1952. Only 22 senators in history served as long as Lugar has of 1,931 total, according to the Senate historian.
Lugar currently ties Utah’s Orrin Hatch as the Senate’s longest-tenured Republican. Hatch is also facing a conservative primary challenge in 2012.
Mourdock’s win was expected by political operatives in D.C. and Indiana after an expensive campaign in which outside groups flocked to the Hoosier State. A total of 12 groups spent $4.6 million, only one of them based in Indiana. If raw spending had decided the race, Lugar would have won. As of mid-April, Lugar had spent $6.7 million defending himself, to Mourdock’s $2 million. Outside groups spent more heavily in favor of Mourdock.
Mourdock’s win certainly signifies that the Republican Party has continued to grow more conservative. Where Lugar voted with Democrats to advance the DREAM Act and worked with the Obama administration to push the New START arms-reduction treaty through the Senate, Mourdock is as conservative and ideological as they come.
“Let’s do away with the Department of Education, Energy, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development,” Mourdock told ABC News in an April phone interview, and he has also proposed ending the IRS. Mourdock has suggested that Paul Ryan’s budget doesn’t go far enough, and he released his own rough plan last year to shrink spending by $7.6 trillion in 10 years. (Ryan’s would reduce it by $5.5 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.)
Perhaps most significantly, Mourdock outspokenly opposes bipartisan compromise. “Bipartisanship has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy,” he told ABC. “We don’t need bipartisanship, we need application of principle.”
Mourdock’s win might give Democrats a new chance to win Indiana’s Senate seat in November. Donnelly’s campaign says its internal polling has shown him performing far better against Mourdock than against Lugar. Democrats have held back their opposition research on Mourdock in the hopes that he would win. Majority PAC, the Democratic Senate-focused super PAC, spent money to help Mourdock’s primary bid. A GOP strategist acknowleged that, with Mourdock’s win, Republicans would have to keep a closer eye on the race, though, with Indiana solidly red in recent statewide elections, the party should feel good about its chances to keep Lugar’s seat within the GOP ranks.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio