With George Allen’s announcement yesterday that he will try to regain his Senate seat, a die has been cast for an epic political battle, the outcome of which could reverberate beyond the Commonwealth, and which at this point the outcome of which is anything but certain.
No, I’m not talking about the rematch between Allen and likely Democratic candidate Jim Webb. That race looks to be boring and predictable.
I’m talking about the contest taking shape in the GOP between Allen and self-proclaimed Tea Party Queen Jamie Radtke.
The brewing battle is not one of ideology. Although many Tea Partiers have problems with Allen’s relatively moderate approach to governing — whatever else he believes, Allen doesn’t seem to think the U.S. Government is the enemy of the American people — this contest is shaping up as one of personality, pay-back and raw political power and calculation.
And if day one is any indication, it could get nasty.
(more on the flip)
No sooner did Allen’s video announcing his candidacy hit the Intertubes that Conservative web site Bearing Drift put up a post entitled, “Tea Party Throws Radtke Overboard as Allen Roll-out Begins.”
According to Blogger D.J. Spiker, he received an email today from two separate sources about Radtke that, according to Spiker, “represents the problems that Jamie Radtke is going to have among the rest of the Tea Party, let alone the Republican Party, its voters, independents, cross-voting Democrats, etc etc etc[.]” (Initially, Spiker did not identify the author of the email, but in the comments section, Jacob Roginsky, a Tea Party organizer, claimed authorship.)
According to Spiker’s post, the email, which he republished without any critical comment, reads as follows:
The real repeal the Virginia Tea Parties must focus on at this time is that of the rule by the self-appointed, self-serving, and self-promoting Jamie Radtke. While at it, the Virginia Tea Parties ought to tell Radtke they will not be used by her as a tool in her senatorial campaign.
If one wishes to see what kind of federalism, republicanism, rule of law, and liberty Radtke would promote in an office of high power, one should look no further than how she created, saddled, and ran the “Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation (“VTPPF”). VTPPF did not come onto the scene through a mutual collaboration of the many organizations that today comprise it, but was conceived and launched by Radtke and her mentor, Attorney Patrick McSweeney, with the help of their cronies, tied to the Virginia RP establishment. Surrounded by cronies and sycophants, Radtke has run VTPPF as a generalissimo. Her agendas become VTPPF’s agendas, dissent is attenuated and discouraged, and the organizations unwilling to accept the legitimacy of Radtke’s nearly absolute rule have been refused VTPPF membership, or expelled from VTPPF through a process launched by a Jamie’s crony as a “prosecutor,” on charges too general to defend against, with secret complainants and witnesses, etc.
Using her ill-gotten position with VTPPF, Radtke has shamelessly posed and promoted herself as the spokesperson for the entire Virginia Tea Party movement. And even as she is no longer the official leader of VTPPF, having had to step down after announcing her senatorial campaign, Radtke continues to run the organization through her cronies, facilitating membership training, leadership meetings, and so on. She even continues to speak on behalf of the Tea Party Movement, e.g. in her planned appearance on the floor of the Senate before the newly formed Senate Tea Party Caucus.
As Radtke prepared to announce her run for Senate, the lights momentarily went off and the scene was filled with smoke. After the smoke cleared, before everyone’s eyes stood two organizations: VTPPF and, tied with it at the waist, a fundraising PAC, headed by Radtke’s chum and toady Karen Hurd. Doubtless, Jamie is the intended beneficiary of the PAC, even if it will offer, for the smokescreen purposes, some support to other political candidates of Jamie’s and Karen’s choosing.
If you think that the current political leaders in Washington are unethical, wait until Jamie comes to town. Better yet, help stop her before she gets there.
Predictably, the comments got interesting and heated, and reading them, particularly some comments from self-identified Tea Party leaders supporting Radtke, two things became clear.
First, while we tend to think of the Tea Party as a big, unified group of self-righteous, self-identified “patriots” who spout slogans about the Constitution without a clue of what they are actually talking about, they are, in fact, not unified — at least when it comes to choosing leaders. What’s more, those differences appear to be personal, not policy based.
For example, according to David Donis, Chairman of the Hampton Roads Tea Party:
As Chairman of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, the largest patriot organization in Hampton Roads, I can say that this [e-mail] does not represent any significant number of those who call themselves tea party. It is a smear and it does the entire patriot movement a disservice to give it a higher place than it deserves.
And Robert E. Shannon, who describes himself as a founder of two Tea Party groups, said in another comment:
On two separate occasions I have voiced a dissenting opinion and not in even the slightest way was there an attempt to silence my views by Jamie Radtke or anyone else on her behalf. Respectful disagreement has always been welcome. That is not to be confused with the Monday morning quarterbacking and personal vitriol that has been launched by 1 or 2 group’s leaders when their opinion did not prevail, after the fact I might add.
Second, the Bearing Drift post (coming just a few hours after Allen agreed to be interviewed on the site, incidentally, one of his first interviews after his announcement) clearly seems to have been an effort, albeit a clumsy one, by the Allen forces to take advantage of the rift within the Tea Party in a quick strike, perhaps in the hope that they could quickly drive enough tea partiers to Allen and drive Radtke from the race sooner rather than later.
If that was the goal, it appears to have been a failed effort. Radtke, for her part, had this to say a bout Allen: “George Allen must explain his record on deficit and pork barrel spending, as well as gun rights, abortion, and his endorsements of Republicans such as Arlen Specter.” (Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, support for Arlen Spector is not a good thing, apparently).
Also today, Red State blogger Erik Erickson endorsed Radtke and hammered Allen. While Erickson has said more loathsome things than one person can possibly recount in a blog post, he does have a following among right-wingers. More importantly, he commands a popular web site that can be a fund raising tool.
Toward the end of the comments section, Spiker tried to try to walk his post back a bit, saying, “Clearly this is only one side of the story.” Spiker also outlined his real problem with Radtke, which is not nearly so extreme as the allegations he approvingly repeated in the initial post. “This is the same issue I have with Christine O’Donnell,” he wrote, “a categorical whack job who dubbed herself a ‘Tea Party’ candidate and skated to the nomination besides having zero qualifications, just two words tagged to her name every time she was mentioned. Jamie Radtke, who is admittedly far more capable than O’Donnell, nevertheless reminds many of us already involved in the party of the same situation.”
It may, however, have been too late. Indeed, a poster named Kristin Cooper concluded the following: “I started reading Bearing Drift because I felt like it was a necessity as someone involved in the Tea Party movement. It is obvious that no matter what the media source or format, it is biased against the Tea Party.”