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Messer's residency a target in Indiana U.S. Senate race

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Could a dispute about residency cost one Republican candidate his U.S. Senate bid?

Where exactly does Republican candidate Luke Messer live is a major talking point for his opponent Todd Rokita.

But Messer says he’s not too concerned.

“I’m a lifetime Hoosier,” he said. “I wrote a children’s book about Indiana called ‘Hoosier Heart.’ I’ve got a home here in Indiana that I’ve owned for 17 years and I love my kids and I want to make sure they have a full time father.”

Messer says family matters to Indiana voters.

That’s why his children and wife are big parts of his campaign.

So when he had aspirations in Washington after his successful congressional run in 2012, he moved his family closer to his work.

But that’s a problem for his primary opponent Rokita.

“Hoosier voters and taxpayers want someone who is accessible,” said Rokita. “They want someone like me who they see at church on Sunday in Indiana. They see our son pushing a cart up Walmart.”

His camp touted the fact that a cancelled flight saw Messer show up late to this local GOP event in Warsaw two weeks ago.

His team even launched missingmesser.com.

It’s a website calling out the candidate for not living in the district.

“Practically they have to live in Washington, the problem is they don’t want to admit it,” said Patrick Furlong, professor emeritus of history at IUSB. “‘If I am elected, I will be a true Hoosier; I will stay close to my Indiana roots. Now how I’m going to do this practically, don’t ask me to explain.’”

Furlong says it’s a tough line to toe.

“It can be used to matter to voters,” he said. “It happened to [Sen. Richard Lugar (R)]. It happened to [Sen. Evan Bayh (D)]. Do you remember [Rep. John Brademas (D)] from South Bend? He was the number three Democrat, if he’d taken better care of his relationship with the district, he would’ve very likely been Speaker of the House.”

It mattered then but Messer believes it won’t matter much in May.

“Hoosier’s aren’t focused on that,” said Messer. “Frankly they’re focused on our economy, what we can do for our national security. But they also appreciate an elected representative that don’t just talk family values but also lives them.”

Messer says he and his family stays with his mother in Greensburg, Indiana every time he returns to the district.

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