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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Richard Lugar and Richard Mourdock appeared Monday at the Lincoln Day dinner.

Lugar, Mourdock spar at county GOP dinner

– Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., recalled Monday how he had helped Hoosier families adopt orphaned children from Vietnam.

“ ‘I want you to cut through the bureaucracy, and I want those orphans,’ ” he said he told Vietnam’s foreign minister. “And we got the orphans. They’re in Indiana now.”

Later, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock questioned what kind of future those children will inherit should the federal government fail to drastically cut its debt and budget deficit.

If Republicans believe in scaling back government, taxes and regulations, “then we ought to be doing more to sell those ideas to the American people,” Mourdock said.

The foes for their party’s Senate nomination in next week’s primary election gave 20-minute speeches Monday to 600 people at Ceruti’s Summit Park. The candidates’ appearance at the Allen County GOP’s annual Lincoln Day dinner was only the second time this year the two candidates have spoken at the same event, the other being their April 11 debate in Indianapolis.

“Very tough Senate race. We’ve seen the ads,” noted Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, who introduced the rivals.

Speaking first, Lugar didn’t refer to Mourdock during his remarks. But Mourdock talked at length about his respect for the six-term senator and vowed to support him in the November general election if Lugar wins the primary.

The primary winner faces Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd.

Mourdock said the philosophical differences between the two Republicans are “relative few in number but not insignificant.”

For instance, Lugar had said about negotiations over legislation: “Some of us are going to have to talk with Democrats.”

Republicans control the House, but Democrats enjoy a Senate majority.

Mourdock later said, “It is not bipartisanship we need, it is principle.”

Democratic majorities in Congress passed the health care law in 2010 “because they had the numbers,” Mourdock said. “That has to be our goal.”

Lugar said electing a Republican president, “has to be a huge objective” and made mention of President Obama’s “very bad administration.”

Lugar spoke about his role to help farmers increase their profits and to rid the former Soviet Union of Cold War-era nuclear weapons.

“Every large city in America was targeted for annihilation,” he said, including Fort Wayne because of its Air National Guard base.

“We are the country that holds the whole thing together,” said Lugar, former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

On the domestic front, he supported revamping Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and building the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Mourdock pledged to serve no more than two terms, or 12 years, if elected – a line that drew applause from the crowd.

Challenging Lugar, “is not an easy thing,” he said. But if the GOP favors competition in markets and education, he said, it should in elections, too.

Recently named Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson also spoke at the dinner.

“Voter turnout so far is very low, believe it or not,” Lawson said about early and absentee voting.

Before the meal, Lugar and Mourdock attended a reception at Ceruti’s. They stood on opposite sides of a room-dividing fireplace, posing for photographs with guests. Many people had their pictures taken with both candidates.

“We all love Richard tonight, right?” Stutzman asked the audience during candidate introductions.