Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) can live in Virginia and still represent Indiana, the state's attorney general declared Thursday in a dispute between Lugar and his Tea Party challenger, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock, who says Lugar's old Indiana address is no good.
Lugar lives in Fairfax County, Va., and has resided in the Washington area since coming to Congress in 1977. Since Lugar sold his home in Indiana at the time, Mourdock argued last week that Lugar is violating the U.S. Constitution by not being an "inhabitant" of the state he represents.
But Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller declared in a letter released by Lugar's campaign that the senator's 35-year absence from Indiana doesn't mean he's not a resident under the law, since he left to serve the state, much like a soldier.
"A person's service in the United States Congress does not cause that individual to lose his or her residency for voting purposes established by the individual prior to the person's departure for Congress," Zoeller wrote. "You have served continuously in the U.S. Senate as an Indiana Senator since 1977. To the extent you have been absent from the state since that time, the absence has been directly related to the business of the state of Indiana and the United States."
Zoeller doesn't get the last word. Elections officials are expected to decide the matter Friday.
Mourdock has charged that Democrats will use Lugar's residential situation against him. In fact, at least one Hoosier Democrat, Rep. Pete Visclosky, has adopted a stance closer to Mourdock's. After The Huffington Post reported that Visclosky was claiming a property tax break on the Maryland home he shares with his wife, a Maryland resident, Visclosky cancelled the home's status as a principal residence and paid back some $10,000 in taxes and interest late last year, according to local property tax records.