Indiana has a so-called "sore loser" law in place, which would prohibit Lugar from attempting an independent bid after losing the primary. And the language is pretty clear: "A person who is defeated in a primary is not eligible to become a candidate for the same office in the next general election or municipal election," according to state statute.
If Lugar has plans to run as independent, he would have to drop out before February 27th, 2012 -- the latest possible date Lugar can remove himself from the primary ballot -- and file as an independent by noon, on July 16th.
Lugar is running as a Republican and has given no hint he will contemplate an independent bid, even if he does lose the primary. He's begun obtaining the required 500 signatures from each of the state's nine congressional districts to get on the primary ballot, signatures that are due by February 24 next year.
Indiana's laws for independent candidates are some of the toughest in the nation. In 2000, Ralph Nader
did not reach the two percent threshold to get on the ballot, though Pat Buchanan
did (Nader, running as a write-in, actually won more votes than Buchanan won for being on the ballot).
An independent bid would cost Lugar much more time and effort. If he opts for that path, state law requires he collect nominating petitions from a number of voters equal to two percent of the votes cast in the most recent election for Secretary of State. That means Lugar would need 34,195 signatures just to reach the ballot as an independent.
Lugar also has the option of pursuing the nomination from the Libertarian Party, if he abandons his GOP campaign before Feb. 27. Although the idea seems far-fetched considering Lugar's political views -- Indiana Libertarian Party executive director Chris Spangle
doesn't "see a world" where the scenario is possible -- he wouldn't need to go through a petition process. Lugar would have to win in a convention slated for a date in April 2012. Spangle isn't counting on that. "I don't see anything happening," he said.
In the unlikely result that Lugar got the Libertarian nomination, he would still be placed in the "Minor Parties" category since the Libertarian Party didn't break ten percent in the 2010 Secretary of State race.
One other complicating factor: The fate of Secretary of State Charlie White
(R). White was recently charged with voter fraud for casting a ballot from an address at which he no longer lived, and Democrats are saying
that White should have been declared ineligible to run in the first place.
If White were to be found ineligible to have run for Secretary of State, one possibility is the two percent requirement for petitions becomes much more manageable for Lugar. Lugar's magic number could shrink to just under 15,000 petitions.
But he shouldn't count on the easier threshold. Indiana Election Division co-general counsel Leslie Barnes
tells Hotline On Call
that the situation hasn't come up for more than a century, making any legal case a toss-up. "The ruling from the judge is difficult to predict as it has been 150 years since such a scenario was considered and all these factors are going to be considered in the ruling."