Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) has reached a settlement with the Marion County (Indianapolis) Election Board, on a key issue coming up in his Republican primary on May 8: Whether he has an actual residency to vote in said primary.
Two weeks ago, the local board voted 2-1 to disqualify Lugar’s residency and voter registration, on an issue over which his opponents have been dogging him: He lives mainly in northern Virginia, and has not owned a home in Indiana itself since 1977, the year after he was first elected to the Senate. At the same time, Lugar has continued to be registered to vote at the same Indianapolis address, of the home he moved out from in 1977.
Now, Lugar has reached a settlement in which he will register at a different address at the county, at farmland in nearby Decatur Township that his family has owned and managed since 1931.
“We still think that the constitution provides that the original location was the proper location,” Lugar’s attorney J. Lee McNeely told the Indianapolis Star, “but there comes a point in time when you say how much do you continue to litigate over something when there’s a simple resolution…We would not have gone there on our own. We go there in conjunction with the Marion County Election Board.”
In a letter to the local board, Lugar described his personal connections to the farmland, and that he has no intention to sell his share in it. “My connection to this land,” Lugar wrote, “is just one reason I’m proud to call myself a Hoosier.”
Lugar’s campaign has said that he is not wealthy enough to maintain two homes, and also wished to have his family with him in Washington.
The campaign has cited the Indiana constitution, and the opinions of current and past state attorneys general, to show that Lugar did not legally lose his residency when he left for Washington to serve the state as its senator decades ago. Indeed, way back when he moved to the Washington area, Lugar obtained such an opinion from the then-state attorney general, in order to be assured of the legality right away.
In late February, the state Election Commission voted 4-0 to reject a challenge to his legal residency, which was lodged by a small group of conservative activists, thus upholding his place on the ballot.
However, the campaign has also struggled with the appropriate public messaging — such as comparing his legal status to that of military service.
Lugar is being challenged from the right by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who has been running close in recent polls. The presumptive Democratic nominee is Rep. Joe Donnelly.