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Richard Mourdock takes the stage after winning the GOP nomination to run for the U.S. Senate, ending Sen. Richard Lugar's nearly four-decade tenure. (WISH photo)
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Updated: Wednesday, 09 May 2012, 1:49 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 08 May 2012, 1:42 PM EDT
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) - In the most hotly contested race in the state, Sen. Richard Lugar has conceded to challenger Richard Mourdock.
Voters brought about an abrupt end to Lugar's nearly four-decade career. He had never before faced a primary challenge. 24-Hour News 8 anchor Karen Hensel described the mood at Lugar's election night gathering as grim, but from the stage, Lugar projected a positive demeanor.
At the Mourdock gathering, the mood was celebratory, not just for the candidate's victory, but for what Mourdock proclaimed a victory for conservative ideals.
Lugar reflects on years of service
At 7:45 p.m., The Associated Press called for Mourdock. About 20 minutes later, the longtime senator took to the stage, saying: "I congratulate Richard Mourdock on his victory and a hard fought race."
He said he wants to see a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, and he hopes Mourdock wins the General Election in November. He also said he looks forward to continuing to work for Hoosiers in the Senate in the time he has left this year.
He has no plans to retire from public service after his term runs out.
"At the end of my term, I will look forward to new opportunities to serve Indiana and to serve our nation," he said in his concession speech.
He expressed pride over the solutions he had worked toward over the years, and he expressed hope that congress members can work together for progress.
"Hoosiers deserve the best representation possible," he said. "They deserve legislators who will listen to their entire spectrum of citizen views and work to achieve consensus. They deserve legislators who each day go to work thinking about how they can solve problems that matter to Hoosiers."
With 70 percent of precincts reporting, Mourdock was leading with 60 percent of the votes - a margin he had maintained throughout the night. He will face Democrat Joe Donnelly in November.
Mourdock: Win is about direction of GOP
In his victory speech, Mourdock said that for weeks he'd been feeling a "tremendous sense of momentum."
He said the race was about ideas, and the result reflected that voters want a more conservative approach.
"It is about the direction of the Republican Party. It is about the direction of our country," he said.
Though Lugar entered the race heavily favored and much better funded than Mourdock, outside groups poured millions into the race, attacking Lugar on his record having a field day with a challenge over whether he was eligible to vote in the state where he hadn't had a home since being elected to the Senate in 1977.
Lugar, who hasn't lost an election since 1974, said he will not run as an independent in November.
He also expressed hope for a new generation of leaders to step forward.
"I still council young citizens to consider elective public office, and I hope some listening to me tonight will do just that," he said.
Lugar falls prey to shifting GOP priorities
Lugar's conservative critics have said he ceded too much ideological ground during his four decades in Washington, but in many ways, it's the changes within his own party that have put his political career in jeopardy
The 80-year-old senator, trying to make up ground against his Tea Party-backed Republican challenger, warned voters in town after town in the run-up to Tuesday's primary that only he could get the support of enough moderates in November to defeat the Democratic candidate, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly.
But Lugar's willingness to compromise and to broker deals — qualities that made him an effective statesman and senator for nearly 36 years — have become a liability among some Indiana Republicans, who have been turning to new, more socially conservative generation of leaders.
Many voters said Tuesday that they backed Mourdock after supporting Lugar for years, citing criticism that Lugar has struggled to shake, including questions over his age, connection to the state, use of attack ads and conservative credentials.
"I voted for him last time, but even then, I thought, 'I wish he had more contact with us here,'" said DeWayne Hintz. "He doesn't seem to remember his roots. He was not in touch with the feelings of the people here. He didn't live here anymore, he spent little time here."
Praise for Lugar's service
Donnelly expressed gratitude for Lugar's service, adding in a statement: "I agree with the Senator that we accomplish more when we work together."
Praise also came in from the highest levels of government, with President Barack Obama issuing a statement after Lugar's loss Tuesday.
"As a friend and former colleague, I want to express my deep appreciation for Dick Lugar's distinguished service in the United States Senate. While Dick and I didn't always agree on everything, I found during my time in the Senate that he was often willing to reach across the aisle
and get things done," Obama said.
The president said his own administration's work to "secure the world's most dangerous weapons" was built on a foundation of Lugar's work.
"Senator Lugar comes from a tradition of strong, bipartisan leadership on national security that helped us prevail in the Cold War and sustain American leadership ever since," Obama said. "He has served his constituents and his country well, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavors."
A long day
When polls opened at 6 a.m. Tuesday, the candidates in the most hotly contested race were at the voting sites, greeting voters.
Both were keeping an optimistic outlook Tuesday, despite what has been seen by many as a negative race.
Lugar spoke to 24-Hour News 8 reporter Jessica Hayes outside a Johnson County vote center.
“We've fought back. We've tried to tell it as it is. People can think it may be negative, but I would just simply say, this is a campaign that's been very competitive. People need to know the truth,” Lugar said.
Mourdock, speaking outside a poll in Avon, also addressed the negative tone of the campaign.
“Those commercials that have the voice, ‘I’m Richard Mourdock and I approve this message.’ Those commercials have started always showing votes from Mr. Lugar’s record,” Mourdock said. “So, if those are seen as negative, maybe those votes (should) have not been cast that way.”
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