The Indiana primary elections took place last week, giving Hoosiers the chance to determine which Republicans and Democrats will appear on the general election ballot this fall. From president of the United States down to local precinct committeemen, Election Day ballot choices have now been set. With a disappointing turnout of only 13 percent of eligible voters, an overwhelming 61 percent voted in favor of Richard Mourdock for the U.S. Senate, thus retiring 35-year veteran Richard Lugar.
Much has been written about the Mourdock-Lugar race, both before and after the voting. Many have cited Lugar’s age (80), the fact that he has not held a residence in Indiana for many years, his liberal votes on several issues and his loosened ties with the Indiana Republican Party.
All of those factors certainly contributed to his losing voter confidence. My observation, though, is that Sen. Lugar became arrogant. He grew to believe that the seat he was elected to represent was his own, not the people’s seat.
Early in my career representing banks, Sen. Lugar met regularly with groups from Indiana that represented business interests, economic development, civic and arts groups. Essentially if you were from Indiana and traveled to the nation’s capitol, Lugar would meet with you. In the past decade, however, Lugar changed. No longer did he take the time to solicit direct input from Hoosiers; he heard only what staff reported to him. As a result, Lugar often held positions and cast votes that, rightly or wrongly, reflected the bias of those staffers. Though I do not believe that this disconnect was intentional, I do believe that Lugar lost touch with his constituents.
Sen. Lugar had not met with bankers in about 10 years. Then, after he had voted against us one time too many, the Indiana Bankers Association decided to support Richard Mourdock’s candidacy. It was after we made our support for Mourdock public that the senator finally agreed to meet with us. By then his staff had begun a campaign to bypass the IBA and contact bankers directly, in an effort to persuade them that we were wrong. I am not aware of a single banker who gave in to this pressure.
Despite this awkward turn of events, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for Mr. Lugar. When he was Mayor Lugar, he did much for Indianapolis, and for many years as Sen. Lugar, he promoted the best interests of Indiana. I am sad that he chose to allow his arrogance to set him up for an unglamorous public exit. I would rather have seen him retire and go gracefully, to the well-deserved accolades he would have received.