INDIANAPOLIS — Democrat Joe Donnelly triumphed Tuesday in one of the nation's most tumultuous Senate races, capitalizing on fallout over his tea party-backed opponent's comment that a pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended" to capture a seat that only months ago seemed safely in Republican hands.
Donnelly beat state Treasurer Richard Mourdock after a bruising campaign that saw outside groups pump millions of dollars into the state in a race viewed by many as a test of the tea party's strength.
Donnelly promised supporters gathered in Indianapolis Tuesday night he would go to Washington as a senator in the mold of Republican Richard Lugar and former Democratic U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh.
"I'm not going there as one party's senator or the other party's senator, I'm going there as your senator to work for your families," he said. "I'm the hired help, and I can't wait to get to work."
Mourdock conceded defeat, tearing up at times as he said he was worried for the nation.
"Tonight, my own disappointment aside, my concern for this nation grows greater," he said. "That's not meant as slap on Mr. Donnelly; I wish him well."
The victory was a coup for Democrats, who had been waiting years for a shot at the seat. It had been held since 1977 by Lugar, who was defeated by Mourdock in a bitterly fought primary.
Even a year ago, Lugar seemed a safe bet to win a seventh term, despite widespread conservative anger with the veteran statesman's votes on divisive legislation and his support for President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominees. But questions about Lugar's residency combined with a flood of outside spending by groups such as the anti-tax Club for Growth carried Mourdock to a 20-point victory in the May primary.