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Old Lugar issue finds new legs in critical race

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For one of the U.S. Senate's true masters of international diplomacy and nuclear disarmament, there's no small irony in the fact that a home he sold in 1977 and the address that appears on his Indiana driver's license are now tripping him up more than any international Gordian Knot ever has.

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar has largely skated through every re-election since he first won federal office in 1976. And even though he has consistently voted from a house he hasn't owned since he left for Washington in 1977, questions about his residency lay dormant until just a few weeks ago.

The story migrated after spending more than a year in Indiana's conservative blogosphere with the help of Democrats, tea partiers and a certified fraud examiner who investigated Lugar's residency late last year.

For decades, political strength, an attorney general's opinion and weak challenges from Democrats all kept the issue at bay. But Lugar's vulnerability this year has drawn a strong tea party challenge in the GOP primary as well as a solid Democratic challenger in Rep. Joe Donnelly, and the legality of his situation has done nothing to tamp the issue down.

Tony Long, vice chairman of the Indiana Election Commission, captured Lugar's dilemma shortly before voting to throw out a tea party challenge to Lugar's appearance on the May Republican ballot.

"I think he's clearly claimed himself to be a Hoosier. I'm sure he roots for IU when they play Kentucky," said Long, one of two Democrats on the commission. "Still, I'd feel a whole lot more comfortable if he had some residence here in the state."

Lugar stumbled through answers about his residency last week, telling reporters that he did not know the address on his driver's license shortly after saying that he renews his license himself. But he did hit on one key factor that has clouded his re-election effort, just as it has hung over his many Senate colleagues who have retired or suffered through grueling tea party challenges.

"Washington has changed over time," Lugar said shortly before speaking to a group named in his honor that trains Republican women to run for office and work on campaigns.

Lugar's supporters and campaign staff have called it ludicrous to attack a sitting senator for living where he works: in Washington. But in Indiana's current congressional delegation, Lugar sticks out. Most of Indiana's federal lawmakers own homes in Indiana and vote from that address, according to a search of the state's voter registration database and property tax records.

That Lugar doesn't has given more fodder to tea partiers already stewing over what they view as the senior senator's many political transgressions, including voting for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee and blaming tea partiers for blowing Republicans' shot at winning back the U.S. Senate in 2010.

"I think what happened is the rank and file tea party felt betrayed. That's a really powerful emotion when you feel that you've been played," said Greg Wright, a certified fraud examiner who filed a complaint against Lugar in November.

Wright met with tea partiers opposing Lugar late last year and they brought up Lugar's residency. Until then, nobody had investigated the claims, keeping questions about his residency locked within a small confine of political insiders.

But it is now front and center with a major hand from Democrats, who have formed a truly strange alliance with tea partiers on the issue. Democratic Super PAC American Bridge has been running ads calling Lugar an excellent senator for Virginia, where he's lived since 1977. Indiana's Democratic Party, meanwhile, has held press conferences and pushed stories as Democrats try to build the storyline.

The last time Lugar ran for re-election, Democrats were more focused on a trio of tough Congressional races in 2006 than on fighting Lugar, who was at that point much stronger politically, said Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, who criticized Lugar for registering his Indianapolis farm at his U.S. Senate office in downtown Indianapolis.

What changed in six years? Democrats now have a top-tier Senate candidate in Donnelly, who opted to run for Senate after Republican lawmakers redrew his 2nd Congressional District last year.

"We have a strong candidate in Joe Donnelly," Parker said.

And with Lugar under fire from his own party, they also have a better platform for trotting out the issue.

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  • Residency is still relevant
    I agree with a lot that Joe and Jim said about Lugar's experience and positions on the issues, but I still think the matter of residency matters, aside from what anyone thinks of Lugar's votes on Senate bills. I honestly don't know how many months of the year the Senate is in session, but I do believe our representatives should maintain homes in this state and spend as much time here as possible (do they not receive a housing allowance for their needs when in D.C.?), rather than spending most all their time off in the D.C. area. I don't think it's at all ridiculous to expect them to fly 600 miles to and from Indiana, and I think it would help them stay in touch with the people they represent.
  • He Didn't Break The Law
    What a frustrating thing to be a citizen in Indiana right now.

    1, Lugar did not break the law. The laws specifically state that Federal elected officials do not need to maintain a residence in Indiana. The reason, one previously assumed was obvious, is that Senators do their work in DC. It would be bizarre for a Senator to constantly jet back and forth from Indiana to DC to establish residency. From this taxpayer's perspective, that would be a waste of money.

    2. Lugar co-owns the family farm south of Indianapolis. Even though he doesn't have to do so, he is a property owner in Indiana.

    3. He has used the address of his last residence in Indianapolis, now sold, because that is what he was told to do by the past and current attorneys general.

    Not only is all of this beside the point of electing someone with whom one shares opinions, but it shows the ignorance of those making these specious points. If someone wants to challenge a sitting politician bring up reasons why that person's opinions are better -- not this embarrassing show of ignorance.
  • It's Forefathers, Isn't it?
    Hey Al...Four Fathers? That sounds like the title of a Maury Povich episode where the mama has 4 potential daddies take a paternity test. Something else Al...you don't know what the Forefathers were really concerned about. Some of them were Christians, but a lot of them were not...many were Deists ("I believe in a higher power named Fred, or Ethyl")...there were even some atheists. Sorry, they wanted people to be able to worship whatever graven image they desired without interference from the government. They were not worried much about God, mostly about establishing a country where they could make a buck and where the government did not interfere with anything. As you know, they used to fight duels back in the day to settle things. They did not need, or want, much government, and they certainly did not want anyone's God foisted upon someone who did not want to recognize that God. There are many treaties signed back in the day that speak to what the founding fathers really thought(see Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, signed and presented to the nation by John Adams, who was the 2nd President and certainly one of our Forefathers)...it expressly states that The Government of the USA "is not, In any sense, founded in the Christian religion". Your presumption of what the concerns of the Founding Fathers were is incorrect. I am not sure what the boiling frogs anaolgy means either, but I will give you props for a really picturesque analogy, even if it doesn't make sense...as you noted it doesn't take long to boil frogs...takes about 235 years to dismantle a good democratic republic though, which maybe is your larger point. However, it makes no sense to vote out one of the few politicians who is talking sanely about issues, so I will vote for Lugar, who is really valuable out there with all the sabre rattling going on out there...the idea of "throw all the bums out" is a nice one in theory, but makes no sense if you are going to replace them with kooks and mercenary types who want to line their pockets. And I can't relate it to frogs boiling in a pot...I think they are normally breaded and fried, aren't they? Very entertaining postings here...laugh out loud funny.
  • who would have thought
    Who would of thought a career politician would break the rules. I really hope he didn't say he didn't know what address was on his license. As the book says "through them all out". I'm sure after 30 years of insider trading he will be able to pay his bills. No one can argue that its time for a change. Wow
    • Amazing
      "I think what happened is the rank and file tea party felt betrayed. That's a really powerful emotion when you feel that you've been played," said Greg Wright, a certified fraud examiner..."

      First, there is no reason any Tea Party person should feel "betrayed." He has never been considered a Tea Party sort of guy, nor has he generally advocated for the concerns of the far-right. The very reason most Hoosiers end up voting for Lugar is that he is a center-right Senator who is not an extremist. Indeed, he is a representative of what the Republican party used to be. The current party, with its extremists and bizarre antics, is, ironically, what is really "Republican in name only." Not Lugar.

      Secondly, while I also have a problem with long-term politicians, voters can always turn them out at election time. It's their choice. I happen to like much of what Lugar stands for -- particularly in the area of foreign policy (also called DEFENSE OF OUR COUNTRY) where long-term knowledge of our fellow countries is so important.

      I will certainly be voting for him.
    • A New Republican Symbol
      ..the GOP's new mascot should be a kangaroo...last seen standing in the corner at the Indiana Election Commission. The Chairman is a partner in a law firm on Lugar's top 10 campaign contributors, appointed by Mitch Daniels, who got his start in politics from..wait for it..Dick Lugar. Ask Charlie White what happens when one commits voter fraud but is not connected to the GOP insiders.
    • I want to make two points:
      1. All Congress members should have term limits----no career politicians.

      2. However, that is not the way it is at the moment. Lugar does have clout in the Senate and it is nice to have him there. Plus, he is the only Republican I would ever vote for---at the moment.
    • Wake Up America
      The PROBLEM and the SIMPLE SOLUTION: We in Americans are like frogs in a warm pot of water. Every 5 minutes the fire is turned up a bit. It doesn't take long before the frogs are boiled alive (DEAD). Does that sound familiar AMERICA?? Well, it has happened to AMERICA over the past 100 years, yes, the pot has been boiling and has now almost completely boiled us to death. The only hope is that WE as citizens of what was a great nation take it back. The only force we need is not violence, it is a simple solution. WE, the PEOPLE, make our citizen political limitations. Obviously, the politicians will not hear of it. One term and out. Yes, If WE, as Americans put our politics aside and vote out all the career political people--Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, Tea party, and Independents, even if they are our friends, then and only then shall the people rule.... One term, whether it be for city, county, state or federal offices, one term and out. Let us take back AMERICA. We seem to want to make everything so complicated. Our Four Fathers, after fighting for their BASIC rights and not entitlements, were very simple men. They cared most about God, family and country, in that order. Notice any difference in the order today. Oh ya, the order is no longer order, rather chaos. ONE TERM AND OUT.
    • Charles
      The problem is that those offices should be part-time , not full-time. They have made it full-time so they could vote all the extras to go with the office. As part-time, they don'ty need to live there. As fuill-time, they believe they do. Eventually, they may use this example to demand that the taxpayer provide them with houses in Washington bcause they are so poor they cannot afford two houses. This,. depsite the millions they raise for campaigns.

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