For the second time in two weeks, super PACs will play a major role in determining the outcome of a U.S. Senate primary contest. Republican Jon Bruning, Nebraska’s attorney general, was expected to win in a cakewalk for the seat, soon to be vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, a Democrat. Instead, two underfunded insurgent candidates — Don Stenberg and Deb Fischer — are giving him a run for his money, thanks in large part to a handful of outside groups. Bruning has the fundraising advantage, having raised more than $3.6 million for his campaign. Stenberg has raised about $750,000, while Fischer has raised less than $440,000 for the race, including $35,000 of her own money. But heading into today’s primary, conservative outside groups have spent more than $2 million on advertising, according to Federal Election Commission records, with nearly $1 million going toward ads attacking Bruning. The ads appear to have been effective — Bruning’s numbers have slipped, according to recent polls.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana has been ruled ineligible to vote back home, a blow for the six- term Republican facing a Tea Party-backed primary challenger who says the senator is out of touch with his state. The Marion County Election Board voted 2-1 along party lines today, with two Democratic members finding Lugar and his wife ineligible to vote in his home precinct. Lugar, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is registered to vote with an Indianapolis address of a home he sold in 1977. He now lives in northern Virginia. The board ruled there is “substantial reason” to believe a non-criminal election violation occurred because the Lugars “abandoned” their Indiana residence, losing their right to vote there.
An election commission in Indianapolis ruled Thursday that Sen. Richard Lugar is ineligible to vote in his former precinct, a blow to the Republican who has been battling residency questions amid a primary battle for reelection. The Marion County Election Board voted 2-1 against Lugar and his wife in a vote along party lines, according to Angie Nussmeyer, a spokesperson for the board. Democrats who voted against Lugar determined he no longer resided at the home address listed on his voter registration. Lugar has lived in McLean, Virginia since the sale of his Indianapolis home in 1977. Lugar’s campaign characterized the decision as an attempt to infringe upon Lugar’s right to vote.
For the moment, Dick Lugar can’t even vote to save himself. A local election board ruled Thursday that the six-term senator has abandoned his Indiana home and cannot cast a ballot in the state he represents. The Indiana Republican is up for re-election this year and faces a conservative challenger in the state’s May 8 primary. “I don’t want to cast aspersions on anyone,” Lugar told reporters on Capitol Hill Thursday, “but there has been a rather concerted campaign by self-appointed persons who believe this is the best way to settle the Indiana election.” The two-to-one party-line decision by the Marion County Election Board has important legal implications, but also resurrects the crippling narrative that Lugar is disconnected from Indiana, where he hasn’t owned a home in more than three decades.