Two GOP Support Groups Battle over Tea Party Candidates

Friday, 06 Dec 2013 11:25 AM

By Melanie Batley

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The Club for Growth has warned that efforts by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to elect establishment Republicans against tea party candidates could ultimately backfire for the GOP at the ballot box.

"The chamber is pro-business and we are pro-free market, and that is the difference," Chris Chocola, Club for Growth president, told The Washington Times.

"The opposing views are not new, but there seems to be some heightened interest from the establishment types to get involved in a race like Idaho. If that heightened interest continues there might be more chances that we end up on opposite sides," Chocola added.

The comments reflect the intensifying battle between tea party conservatives and the Republican establishment after the two locked horns over strategy in the budget fight.

In the weeks following the government shutdown, the Chamber of Commerce blamed tea party lawmakers for the economic damage caused by the government shutdown and vowed to pour money into campaigns to elect pro-business moderates against tea party candidates.

Buoyed by its success in an Alabama U.S. House race in November when the group backed Bradley Byrne to defeat tea party candidate Dean Young, the chamber announced this week that it will run ads to support Idaho GOP Rep. Michael Simpson against the Club for Growth's candidate, Bryan Smith.

The group is also wading into races in West Virginia and Kentucky where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is fighting off a primary challenge by conservative Matt Bevin.

"We believe the stakes for the American economy and the business community are high, and we plan to vigorously participate in the 2014 elections," Blair Latoff Holmes, a chamber spokeswoman, told the Times.

"We will continue to evaluate our involvement in 2014 as we always have, measuring candidates' records and positions on a broad range of issues important to the business community," she said.

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