-- INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana has argued that he voted for Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagen and Sonia Sotomayor because other nominees would have been more liberal, said Richard Mourdock, state treasurer and Lugar's Republican primary challenger on Monday afternoon at a Federalist Society candidate forum.
But that argument isn't good enough for Mourdock and shouldn't be good enough for voters, he argued.
"Had I been there, then I would have voted 'no' on that person as well," Mourdock said.
Mourdock spent a portion of Monday afternoon debating the congressional confirmation of judicial nominees in front of about 20 members of the Indianapolis chapter of the conservative legal society. But he wasn't facing off with Lugar.
Rather, he was going head to head with Federalist member and Lugar supporter Asheesh Agarwal, who was standing in for the senator. The real Dick Lugar was still in Washington, D.C. while the Senate is in session, working on a mark up of the Farm Bill this week.
Agarwal argued that Lugar has followed the Founders' intent to have Congress show deference to the president in the case of nominees "fit to serve." Additionally, Agarwal said Lugar, who is being challenged from the right by Mourdock and his tea party supporters, is a prime advocate for judicial nominees favored by conservatives.
Due to his "stature "and "voting record," "Senator Lugar would be in an excellent position to confirm nominees under President Romney," Agarwal said, crediting Lugar for the 22 Democrats who voted in support of conservative chief justice John Roberts.
Mourdock and his supporters have hit Lugar hard on his judicial nomination record in the run up to the May 8 primary election.
"During those 36 years in Washington, Dick Lugar lost touch with Hoosier conservative values and became Obama's favorite Republican: voting for Obama's liberal Supreme Court picks, amnesty for illegal aliens, earmarks, more government spending and bailouts," the announcer stated in a radio ad released Monday by the Mourdock campaign.
[ Listen to the ad here via the Mourdock campaign.]
At Monday's event, Mourdock argued that if more members of Congress reviewed a nominee's "public virtue" as part of their duty to "advise and consent," Republicans would push back against the nominees with whom they disagree, forcing Democrats to modify who they nominate.
In a release accompanying the forum Monday, Mourdock's campaign noted that the senator was 1 out of 9 Republicans who confirmed Sotomayor and just 1 out of 5 who confirmed Kagan.
Mourdock's camp isn't the only outfit using Supreme Court nominations against Lugar. The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund released a radio ad this month accusing Lugar of becoming liberal during his time in office, partially illustrated by the fact that "he voted to confirm both of Barack Obama's anti-gun nominees to the Supreme Court," the ad stated.
The NRA, the fiscally conservative Club for Growth, as well as the tea party have united behind Mourdock in this Senate primary race.
Early voting for the race began April 9.
Check back with Yahoo News Tuesday for our one-on-one interview with Mourdock on campaign strategy, the tea party and the man he's looking to unseat.
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