South Bend Democrat Joe Donnelly has thwarted the tea party's hopes in Indiana by winning the Senate seat held for 36 years by Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.
Donnelly's victory over Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock caps a tumultuous year for an Indiana seat that was such a safe bet for the GOP that Democrats didn't field a candidate in 2006.
"You all made phone calls, you all knocked on doors house-to-house and that's why I'm going to be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana," Donnelly said during his victory speech Tuesday night in Indianapolis, which aired live on WNDU-TV. "You gave us a chance and we said the most important thing was Hoosier common sense going to Washington D.C."
"This is about our future," Donnelly told his supporters. "A chance for good jobs, to see our economy grow. We can solve these problems."
Donnelly, 57, takes over the seat of longtime Republican Senator Richard Luger, who lost the primary to Mourdock. Donnelly praised Lugar for his bi-partisan efforts in the Senate, saying he would continue that Indiana tradition.
"I'm not going there as one party's senator or another's senator, I'm going there as you senator," Donnelly declared.
Donnelly also said the same of former Senator and Indiana Governor Evan Bayh, who introduced Donnelly.
"I have known Joe Donnelly for 26 years. He is a good man, he is devoted father and husband, he's a patriot, he's humble, he's honest and he will do us proud," Bayh said. "Washington needs a breathe of fresh air and that's what Joe Donnelly will provide.
Mourdock was originally considered the favorite to win the race but came under fire after controversial comments involving pregnancy from rape.
"I believe that life begins at conception," he said. "The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I just struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God -- that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
Donnelly has served as U.S. Representative for Indiana's 2nd congressional district since 2007.
He becomes the 2nd Notre Dame graduate to become a U.S. Senator. Edward P. Carville, class of 1909, was a senator from Nevada from 1945-1947.
Donnelly received a phone call Tuesday night from former President Bill Clinton, who offered congratulations for his victory.