High-Profile Primaries In Three States On Tuesday

The presidential primaries are no longer competitive, but there are three important non-presidential primaries on Tuesday. The first is an Indiana Republican Senate primary in which veteran Senator Dick Lugar's career is on the line. The second is a vote in North Carolina on a proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage — as well as civil unions and domestic partnerships. The third pivotal vote of the day is the Democratic primary for Wisconsin's gubernatorial recall election. Melissa Block talks with Ron Elving.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Now, to politics here in the U.S. Today, Indiana voters are deciding the fate of long time Senator Dick Lugar in a Republican primary. Wisconsin is choosing a Democratic opponent to run against Republican Governor Scott Walker. And North Carolina is considering whether to add a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution.

Joining us to review the prospect for today's votes is NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Hey, Ron.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Melissa.

BLOCK: And Ron, it is Tuesday. There are presidential primaries today. We are not talking about those.

ELVING: Not so much, but we do have the great states of Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina coming up today. You're right. It's pretty much of a snooze. Rick Santorum endorsed Mitt Romney last night in an email to former supporters of Rick Santorum last night. Only question is the size of the margin in each state.

The seriously addicted will be comparing Mitt's vote, and how well he's doing now that there's not really much competition to what early Republican nominees got in those states at the similar point in early rounds.

BLOCK: Well, let's talk about the primary that I mentioned in Wisconsin. This is for the governor's recall election. Tell us about that.

ELVING: It's a primary to choose a challenger. The actual recall will be next month and Republican Governor Scott Walker is kind of the featured marquee politician here. But someone has to run against him and there are four Democrats, including the dominating top two, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk.

Barrett has led in the most recent polls, even though Falk has had more of the support from organized labor and Barrett also runs better against Walker in hypothetical match-up polls.

BLOCK: And the vote coming up on June 5th, big bucks in this race, Ron. Governor Walker is said to have raised $25 million to keep his job.

ELVING: That's a lot of money in any state, particularly in a state the size of Wisconsin. Barrett, so far, has been down around a million, but if he wins today, his fundraising will pick up big time.

BLOCK: Let's talk some more about the Republican primary we mentioned in Indiana. This possibly could be the end for six-term Senator Dick Lugar, Republican.

ELVING: Yes, and in a primary no less. Lugar is trailing Richard Mourdock, who is the Republican state treasurer, by something like double digits in most polls. And, of course, Mourdock has been the darling, if you will, of the Tea Party there and also of a national group called Club For Growth.

And Dick Lugar has been known for his bipartisanship over the years and there have been many years - six terms, 36 years. He's bidding for his seventh. And he voted for a number of things that have been controversial among conservatives, including both of President Obama's nominees to the Supreme Court.

And he even befriended the freshman senator, Barack Obama, back in 2005 when Obama was assigned to the senate foreign relations committee where, of course, Lugar was the senior Republican for many, many terms.

BLOCK: You mentioned the Club For Growth, Ron. Money, outside money a big factor in this race as well?

ELVING: Anti-tax conservatives, business conservatives have put in millions for anti-Lugar ads, but Lugar's also provided a lot of ammunition for those ads. For decades, he didn't maintain a home in Indiana, symbolizing the degree to which, I suppose, he'd become a creature of Congress. And that's not what you want to be these days.

BLOCK: Let's talk, finally, Ron, about the ballot measure we mentioned in North Carolina that would limit legal recognition of relationships to marriages between one man and one woman. North Carolina already has a gay marriage ban, though.

ELVING: That's right, but this measure would put the ban in the constitution making it harder to repeal. And the way it's worded seems to deny legal standing to civil unions or domestic partnerships, as well as gay marriages. So that's one reason that opponents of this particular proposition have called it a civil rights issue.

Polls show at this point that most North Carolinians do oppose gay marriage and will probably vote for this proposition just for that simple reason.

BLOCK: OK. And we'll be watching all of these votes through the evening. NPR's senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. Thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Melissa.

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