Senator Lugar Adds “Curse Breaker” To List of Achievements – Outgoing Senior Indiana Senator Leaves Historic Legacy
By Jay Zimmer
Dick Lugar led a storied political life, one that traveled light years from the first political cartoon about him. That cartoon wondered if an Eagle Scout could survive in the dog-eat-dog world of politics.
But he did. In his first major election, Lugar defeated an incumbent to become the Mayor of Indianapolis and the president of the National League of Cities. After two terms there, during which he successfully implemented Unigov – which combined many governmental entities of Indianapolis and Marion County – he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate, falling to incumbent Democrat Birch Bayh. (Ironically, Lugar would serve in the Senate with Bayh’s son Evan years later.)
Born in Indianapolis, Lugar was active in the Boy Scouts, achieving the highest rank of Eagle, and later being named Distinguished Eagle Scout. He attended public and Denison University, becoming a Rhode’s Scholar. He joined the Navy and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade.
Lugar’s second run for the senate, in 1976, also facing an incumbent, would be the starting gun on his race through Hoosier and U.S. history. He defeated Vance Hartke.
Lugar’s first brush with history came in 1994 when he defeated challenger Jim Jones. That victory shattered Indiana’s three-term curse for U.S. Senators. Prior to that year, no person had ever been elected to more than three Senatorial terms from Indiana.
In a 35 year tenure in the United States Senate, one which concentrated on foreign policy and the dismantling of international nuclear arsenals, Lugar accumulated an impressive pile of historic landmarks.
- He became the longest-serving Senator from the State of Indiana
- He became the third most senior Senator (after Dan Inouye and Patrick Leahy)
- He became the most senior Republican Senator
- In 2006, defeated Libertarian Steve Osborne – there was no Democratic opposition to Lugar
- He voted over 12,000 times on the Senate floor and achieved a 98% attendance record
- He became the first six-term senator to lose his seat at a primary in 60 years.
Lugar, in seeking a seventh term, may have been chasing the record of another long-serving member of the Senate. South Carolina Senator Strom Thurman (1902-2003) served 48 years in the Senate and is the only member to reach the age of 100 while still in office. Had Lugar run for and been elected to a seventh term, he would be 87 should he run for yet another term… and would have 41 years in the Senate.
Lugar lost his bid for a seventh term to Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock of Evansville.