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‘Mourdock drag’ may have affected local races

Republican US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock speaks Wednesday evening supporters RadissHotel Merrillville. Mourdock New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke rally

Republican US Senate candidate Richard Mourdock speaks Wednesday evening to supporters at the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville. Mourdock and New Jersey governor Chris Christie spoke a rally for Mourdock and other republicans after the Indiana Gubenatorial Debate in South Bend. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 9, 2012 7:30PM



The effect of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock on down-ticket races was a hotly debated topic for Northwest Indiana officials on Wednesday.

Lake County Democratic Chairman and Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said Mourdock’s comments — about pregnancy from rape being “something God intended to happen” — definitely had an effect on many races.

“Obviously, I was confident that Joe Donnelly was going to win, but the turning point was definitely Mourdock’s statement, not only for his race but others on the ticket,” McDermott said. “I think it hurt Republicans across board in Indiana. It goes to show you how one candidate on the ticket can hurt.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, captured the seat currently occupied by Sen. Richard Lugar, who lost in the Republican primary. The U.S. Senate race actually garnered more votes in Porter County and Lake County than the race for governor.

Even Republicans thought there may have been a “Mourdock drag.”

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, won his 4th District seat 52 percent to 48 percent. He was surprised at the close margin in his own race — the closest margin since his first election in 2006 — when his polling showed about a 30-point margin. On Tuesday night, he thought Mourdock may have been a drag on other GOP candidates, but Indiana Republicans were able to capture a supermajority in the House.

“I’m just thankful to survive,” Soliday said. “The supermajority is sometimes just as much trouble because the more people you have, the more expectations grow. But (Speaker Brian) Bosma emphasized that we’re not looking for a confrontation, wild agendas. We want to work together.”

Porter County Republican Vice Chairman Michael Simpson said Donnelly spent a great deal of money and effort in Northwest Indiana and it showed. Porter County’s voter turnout was down about 8 percent from the 2008 high of 72 percent, while it was down about 10 percent — to 60.5 percent — in Lake County.

“I think the senatorial election was a big factor,” Simpson said. “The ground game just shows me that they had the great effect of getting a large number of people out to vote.”

Simpson said Mourdock’s comments also directed a lot of attention on the race. He said another factor may be changing demographics as many Lake County and Chicago residents now make their homes in Porter County.

“They’re more prone to be Democratic, and especially in high-profile races, that just drives up turnout so more ballots are cast the other way,” Simpson said.



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