Lugar, Mourdock avoid personal attacks, focus on issues in only primary debate
U.S. Senate candidates running in the GOP primary, Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. and Richard Mourdock participate in a debate Wednesday, April 11, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, Pool)
By Samm Quinn
The Statehouse File
INDIANAPOLIS– Sen. Richard Lugar and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock shied away from personal attacks in a GOP primary debate Wednesday and focused on their own strengths – the incumbent displaying his foreign policy credentials and the challenger wooing tea party voters.
On creating jobs…
Mourdock – Said the key is to roll back size of government and reduce the federal debt. Congress should act more aggressively as the watchdog on agencies imposing federal regulations.
Lugar – Supports eliminating government regulations on businesses and making it easier for companies to raise capital. Supports investments in science, math and applied technology education.
On the use of corn ethanol…
Mourdock – Blames a blended ethanol/gas mandate in part on the high price at the pump. Said he opposes the mandate.
Lugar – Supports corn-based ethanol both as a way to bring down the price of gasoline and to support the Indiana economy, where he says ethanol has raised the price of corn and the value of farmland.
On cutting the federal budget…
Mourdock – Supports eliminating the federal education, energy, commerce, and housing and urban development departments. Proposes to cut $7.6 trillion over 10 years. Supports major changes in Social Security for those workers who are under 55 years old.
Lugar – Supports and voted for the budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, which would cut agency budgets by $19 billion and restructure income taxes with lower rates for wealthier Americans. The Ryan budget would also raise the Medicare eligibility age and replace the program with subsidized private health plans.
On health care…
Mourdock – Supports repealing the federal health care law. Opposes effort to create a national database of medical records. Supports giving Medicaid to states in block grants with flexibility for spending. Proposes giving additional tax breaks for health care savings accounts and insurance payments.
Lugar – Supports repealing federal health care law. Supports providing Medicaid to states as a block grant. Supports changing Medicare benefits for those younger than 55.
On Social Security…
Mourdock – Must require younger workers to begin planning for their own retirements. Social Security should not be a system that retirees rely on entirely for their incomes. Must require people set up their own savings and retirement systems.
Lugar – Supports incremental increases in Social Security taxes for those who earn more than $110,000. Would consider raising the retirement age a few days or months at a time. Said he has taken bold steps in the past to save Social Security.
On troops in Afghanistan…
Mourdock – Should keep troops in Afghanistan, in part to fortify defenses against Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal.
Lugar – Must lead Afghans to secure their own territory and then use covert operations and intelligence resources to strike the Taliban where necessary.
On social conservatism…
Mourdock – Believes life begins at conception. Believes individual faith should be respected.
Lugar – Says he “believes in marriage, children and family values.” Said he has a 100 percent voting record with Right to Life.
Mourdock called for the elimination of the federal energy, education, commerce, and housing and urban development agencies. He said he’d already developed a “rudimentary” budget that would cut $7.6 trillion over the next 10 years.
And Mourdock said he’d push for a return to the federal government the nation’s founding fathers created – one that left most decisions to states.
“I want to see us roll back government, not simply as an academic exercise but to provide greater freedom to individuals,” Mourdock said.
Lugar, meanwhile, said he’s spent 35 years in Congress making tough decisions about government every day. Although the Mourdock campaign has attacked Lugar’s long tenure in Washington D.C., the incumbent senator highlighted his service during the one hour, televised debate.
Lugar touted a voting record lauded by business groups and said he’d voted to cut budgets, to take tough steps to save Social Security and block the Democrats’ federal health care law.
He talked of the importance of limited, constitutional government but said “some of us actually have to vote for these principles and I look forward to those opportunities every day.”
Wednesday’s event was sponsored by the Indiana Debate Commission and carried live by 51 TV and radio outlets, including C-SPAN.
Questions came from Hoosier voters who either asked them in person, via video or through the moderator Phil Bremen, a telecommunications professor at Ball State University.
Although Mourdock said he and Lugar would agree on much throughout the debate and campaign, there was much they disagreed on as well.
Mourdock blamed a federal mandate that requires refiners to blend gas with corn ethanol in part for high prices at the pump. He said he opposes the mandate – as he opposes nearly all mandates.
But Lugar defended the use of corn ethanol – both as a way to bring down gas prices and to support the Indiana economy, where he said ethanol has raised the price of corn and the value of farmland.
The candidates also disagreed on the United States’ presence in Afghanistan and foreign policy.
Mourdock said U.S. troops should still be present in Afghanistan to fortify defenses against Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.
“In Afghanistan, I know people are tired of having our troops there,” he said. “We cannot turn our tail and run. We cannot lead from behind.”
But Lugar said we need to guide Afghans to secure their territory and then use covert operations and intelligence to strike the Taliban when and where necessary.
“I think it’s important to say that our strategy as a country is undergoing a turn that is an important one,” he said. “I look forward to working closely with the defense department.”
It wasn’t until the closing minutes of the debate when Mourdock attacked Lugar’s residency, an issue that has dominated much of the early advertising in the race.
Lugar and his wife reside in Virginia, but he owns a farm in Indiana. While visiting Indiana, Lugar mostly stays in hotels, which Mourdock disagrees with.
If Hoosiers elect him, Mourdock says he plans to be in touch with Mourdock and he won’t move away from Darmstadt, Ind., where he currently resides.
“I’m proud to call this state home. I look forward to traveling this state,” he said. “I’m not moving.”
But Lugar emphasized his own Hoosier roots. He talked about his family farm, a business where he worked with his grandfather to “create new jobs, create new products, create new markets abroad and hire new people.”
“These are conservative elements in my life and they are expressed in my votes,” he said, “and the work we’ve been doing both with the economy as well as in foreign policy to bring security for America.”
Samm Quinn is a reporter with TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.