Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) has contributed almost $900,000 so far this cycle in support of the party’s efforts to retain control of the Senate. But there’s one race the most senior Democrat in the chamber has decided to avoid: He won’t campaign against Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.).
Lugar faces a very competitive May 8 primary against state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Democrats are hoping to put the race in play if Lugar loses renomination, which polls indicate is an increasingly likely possibility.
“If Sen. Lugar somehow does not make it past the Republican primary, Sen. Inouye will re-evaluate,” an Inouye aide said.
Rep. Joe Donnelly, the Democrat running for Senate who raised a paltry $313,000 in the first quarter of the year, could no doubt use the financial assistance of Inouye and his DANPAC, which have contributed a combined $881,000 to Democratic candidates and causes this cycle.
Inouye has a track record of putting personal relationships before strict partisan considerations. In 2008, he supported his “brother,” the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), in his competitive race against Democrat Mark Begich. Now Inouye is supporting Begich, who defeated Stevens and is up for re-election in 2014. He is due to travel to Alaska next month to campaign for the first-term Senator.
“It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or Republican. He has been there always for Alaska. He supports us on our oil and gas issues, supports us on our Alaska Native rights issues,” Begich said. “He has been very helpful in helping build our infrastructure for our state, so Alaskans see him as a great friend.”
The Appropriations chairman has also been traveling the country to raise money and campaign for his Democratic colleagues up for re-election this cycle. For instance, Inouye went to Detroit in support of Sen. Debbie Stabenow and to Seattle to stump for Sen. Maria Cantwell. Inouye is also planning a trip to Las Vegas in support of the Nevada Democratic Party’s efforts to help elect Rep. Shelley Berkley to the Senate.
“For more than fifty years Senator Inouye has witnessed how elections can alter the trajectory of our country. The Senator knows that this election cycle is critical to shaping the strategy that will guide the operations of our government during very difficult economic times and the choices voters make at the ballot box will let the world know what values and beliefs define our great nation,” Inouye spokesman Peter Boylan said in a statement.
Inouye is also working to keep Hawaii’s other Senate seat in the Democratic column. Inouye and national Democrats are supporting Rep. Mazie Hirono, the frontrunner in the race, who still faces a primary against former Rep. Ed Case. Inouye has participated in events supporting Hirono in Hawaii and Washington, D.C. The winner of the Democratic contest will face former Gov. Linda Lingle (R) in November.