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Associated Press
Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., takes the oath of office from Vice President Biden on Thursday.

Donnelly takes U.S. Senate seat in political 'middle'

Indiana's newest U.S. senator said Thursday he will be a lot like those Hoosiers who have preceded him in the past half-century -- relatively moderate.

Shortly before being sworn in on Capital Hill, Joe Donnelly, a Democrat from Granger in St. Joseph County, named "an amazing Hoosier tradition" in the Senate that has included Republicans Richard Lugar, Dan Coats and Dan Quayle and Democrats Evan Bayh, his father, Birch Bayh, and Vance Hartke.

"We have had just a tradition of being a state where the senators that represent us are not extremists but are ones who are looked to by the entire nation to bring our country together," Donnelly told reporters in a conference call. "And I hope to serve in that same role of not worrying about Democrat, not worrying about Republican, but worrying about doing what's right for our country."

Political scientists might quibble with Donnelly about how moderate some of his predecessors have been. But Donnelly clearly established himself as a centrist during six years in the House, and he said Thursday he is part of a "middle group" that has emerged in the Democratic-controlled Senate since the November election.

Donnelly, 57, was escorted to his swearing-in ceremony at 12:10 p.m. by the Bayhs and Lugar, 80, a six-term incumbent who lost last year's Republican primary election to state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Donnelly defeated Mourdock in the general election.

Vice President Biden administered the oath of office to Donnelly and 32 other senators elected in November.

Donnelly earlier said he has kept in contact with Lugar.

"I have talked with him a number of times since the election, and asked him if he wouldn't mind if I could give him a call every now and then," Donnelly said. "He laughed and said he would love to be able to have a chance to do that. He gave me advice and wisdom.…"

Donnelly said he also has been in contact with Coats, who becomes Indiana's senior senator after two years in office. Coats has plenty of experience, however – he was a senator from 1989 through 1998 after serving in the House.

"We've met, we've talked and really look forward to working together," Donnelly said.

Coats was to have been in Donnelly's escort for the oath but had to attend to a family illness, a Coats aide said.

Three new member of Indiana's House delegation were to be sworn in Thursday -- Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, who replaces Donnelly; Susan Brooks, R-5th, a Fort Wayne native who replaces the retired Republican Dan Burton; and Luke Messer, R-6th, who replaces Republican Gov.-elect Mike Pence.

For more on this story, see Friday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Friday.

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