Hoosier voters, espec-ially those who choose a Republican ballot for the May 8 primary election, face a difficult decision this spring. Longtime U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar faces a spirited re-election challenge from state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the GOP Senate nomination. The winner advances to a general election showdown in the fall with the presumed Democrat nominee, Rep. Joe Donnelly, and any third-party or independent candidates who qualify to run.
For decades, Sen. Lugar has been politically untouchable. His party has been solidly behind him, and Democrats haven’t been able to muster a challenge. In fact, six years ago, when Lugar sought his fifth term, the Democrats did not even field a candidate.
Times change. The emergence of the tea party in 2010 created an ideological struggle among Republicans, some of whom promote a more aggressive brand of conservatism than Lugar has practiced in his 35-year tenure in the U.S. Senate. Mourdock represents that more conservative wing of the GOP, and he clearly has the support and resources to give Lugar a stiff fight.
Unaligned or undecided Republican voters may feel ill-equipped to sort out the differences between the two. And the advertising war being waged over the airwaves may not be too helpful. Any thoughtful voter is wise to be skeptical of the attack ads.
One way for voters to get an unfiltered view of the two candidates is by watching the Lugar-Mourdock debate which will be televised throughout the state at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The hour-long debate is sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that promotes and conducts political debates between candidates for statewide offices.
The Wednesday debate will be broadcast from the studios of WFYI, a PBS affiliate in downtown Indianapolis. As this year’s president of the Debate Commission, I appreciate WFYI making its facilities available for this important political event, and am quite pleased that the candidates agreed to participate. At this point, it appears our debate will be the only one to occur between these candidates.