‘You can’t beat up on Grandpa. You shouldn’t beat up on Grandpa. But still, there comes a time when it’s time.” So declares Richard Mourdock, the Indiana treasurer who is trying to unseat 80-year-old Sen. Dick Lugar in the May 8 GOP primary.
It’s hard to find a better symbol of the “Washington establishment” than Mr. Lugar, who has lived in D.C. since he was first sworn into office in 1977. But the avuncular senator is beloved by many Hoosiers—and for the very reason that tea partiers want to send him home: He’s a statesman, not a warrior.
An early test of the tea party’s strength this year will be whether Mr. Mourdock can unseat the iconic incumbent. At 60, the challenger is no spring chicken, nor is he a national rock star like freshman Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. But he’s “capable, competent, and conservative,” as he says.
Mr. Mourdock spent 30 years in the energy business as a geologist, executive and consultant. A heightened sense of civic pride spurred him to run for Vanderburgh County commissioner in 1995. Ten years later, impressed by his business background and political service, Gov. Mitch Daniels recruited him to run for treasurer. “I am known as a hard-working politician,” says Mr. Mourdock. “I go everywhere in Indiana to help the local Republican parties.”
The state treasurer catapulted into the national spotlight in 2009 when he sued the Obama administration on behalf of public pensioners for giving preference to the United Auto Workers over bondholders in the Detroit bailout. Not long afterward, members of the state GOP asked him to run for Senate.