Many of the 87 House freshmen benefited from a wave of tea party support to gain their entrance to Congress. And now that same tea party movement may put them in danger this time around, Politico reports.
Some of the 2010 tea partyers may face primary threats from 2012 tea partyers. Some in the grass-roots movement feel the freshmen have abandoned their small-government ideology.
Former tea party favorites Allen West of Florida and Michael Grimm of New York have faced criticism for voting in favor of agreements to prevent a government shutdown in Grimm’s case and to prevent a government default on its debt in West’s case.
“Certainly, the House of Representatives has not been as conservative and steadfast as some Republicans would have wanted us to be,” said freshman Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks. “Primaries will be a way for us to figure out if those voters are in a majority or a minority.”
Some freshmen already face primary opponents. Indiana Rep. Larry Bucshon will have a rematch with Kristi Risk, who has attacked him for his support for raising the debt ceiling and for an extension of the Patriot Act.
I think if anything, the energy is building,” said Risk, who almost beat Bucshon in the 2010 primary. “Definitely the momentum has grown.”
Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann will have to defeat Weston Wamp, the 24-year-old son of his immediate predecessor, GOP Rep. Zach Wamp. And Fleischmann may encounter more challengers. Former Tennessee GOP Chairwoman Robin Smith, whom Fleischmann beat in the 2010 primary, also is considering jumping into the fray.
Mississippi Rep. Alan Nunnelee will probably have to prove himself again versus his 2010 opponent Henry Ross, former mayor of Eupora. Ross has said Nunnelee isn’t conservative enough.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick may have to beat back a challenge from an Americans for Prosperity official who has taken him to task for his views on labor affairs.
The public’s growing disenchantment with Congress makes things difficult for all incumbents, notes South Carolina freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy.
“When your approval rating is 9 percent, which is just below sharks and contract killers, everyone should be worried about re-election,” he said. “The same ‘throw the bums out’ attitude that existed last time will exist this election, and the election after, and the election after that until we do something to address the views of Congress.”
To be sure, the freshmen have kept their eye on the ball enough to prevent massive primary challenges. Dick Armey, chairman of Freedom Works, said his group, which is connected to the tea party, will back many House rookies to say “thank you” for their support for reducing the budget deficit.
“These guys came in and said they would focus on spending — and they’ve done that,” he said. “They’ve framed the debate in Congress over cutting spending.”
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