Lugar Is the Definition of Hoosier

February 27, 2012

For release Feb. 29 and thereafter (654 words)

To borrow a phrase from the late Potter Stewart, I may not be able to define the word Hoosier, but I know one when I see him. And Sen. Richard G. Lugar is the quintessential Hoosier.

Lugar has spent most of his life in public service on behalf of the citizens of this state. On that point, not even his primary opponent can disagree. Yet the Indiana Election Commission was forced to parse the words of both federal and state constitutions last week to confirm that our senior senator is indeed eligible to run in the May primary.

The commission voted 4-0 to reject challenges to Lugar’s ballot status filed by three Indiana citizens: David S. Stockdale, Philip A. Smith and Ronald P. Kilpatrick.

Although he didn’t file a formal complaint, Lugar’s Republican primary challenger, State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, has tried to make a campaign issue out of Lugar’s lack of physical residence in Indiana.

The argument is nonsense and a distraction from pressing issues that deserve candidates’ attention.

The state constitution is unequivocal: “No person shall be deemed to have lost his residence in the state, by reason of his absence, either on business of this state or of the United States.”

Furthermore, an attorney general’s advisory opinion issued after Lugar’s first Senate election stated, “If a person has established residency for voting purposes in an Indiana precinct prior to his or her service in Congress, that residence remains the Congressperson’s residence as long as he or she remains on the business of the state or the United States.”

Mourdock can argue over Lugar’s political philosophy or his voting record, but he can’t in good conscience claim he’s not a Hoosier.

Like it or not, serving in Congress is a full-time job. Some congressmen rent apartments in the D.C. area and maintain homes in the districts to which they commute. Others move their families to the Washington area, as Lugar did.

To insist that public servants making $174,000 a year maintain second homes just for the sake of appearance would be both costly and unreasonable.

Mourdock’s argument is especially specious considering that Lugar is still a principal owner of the family farm, Lugar Stock Farm, located in Marion County.

Perhaps those trying to misstate the residency requirements have forgotten a similar and precedent-setting dispute that arose in 1988 when Democrat Evan Bayh ran for Indiana governor, an office which constitutionally requires candidates to “have resided in the state five years next preceding his election.” Notably that residency language is far more prescriptive than the one applying to federal officeholders such as Lugar.

Republicans claimed Bayh was ineligible to run or serve because he had lived in Washington D.C. for 13 months out of the five years preceding the election. Bayh argued that he was a lifelong Indiana resident, regardless of whether he physically lived in the state for the entire period in question.

The case monopolized the news during the early months of Bayh’s candidacy, and eventually went to the Indiana Supreme Court. Although dominated by Republican appointees, the court sided unanimously with Bayh, ruling that “a person who leaves his place of residence temporarily, but with the intention of returning, has not lost his original residence.”

The decision prompted Bayh to declare, “I’m probably the only candidate ever to run for state office in the state of Indiana who has had a court of law rule that I am a Hoosier.”

As the justices noted in the Bayh decision, residency requirements were intended to deter carpetbaggers – like those northerners who went south after the Civil War — and to ensure voters have a chance to scrutinize the candidates.

Few politicians have been scrutinized more than Dick Lugar during his lifetime of service as Indianapolis school board member, Indianapolis mayor and Indiana senator.

His residency is a non-issue under state and federal constitutions, and to claim otherwise is gamesmanship bordering on untruth.

Andrea Neal is adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at


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