Sen. Ted Cruz has told Republican colleagues he won't intervene in their primary fights next year or do any fundraising to help the Senate Conservatives Fund defeat them.
The freshman conservative, whose fierce stance against Obamacare led to a rift
within the GOP, also told fellow Republican senators during a private luncheon Wednesday that the Senate Conservatives Fund made its own decision to try to "primary-out" incumbent GOP senators without his input and that he plans to have his image removed from their promotional and campaign materials, reports Politico
In addition, Cruz noted, two other outspoken GOP conservative senators — Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky — had decided not to help the group raise money, a source familiar with the meeting told Politico.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is facing a tough primary battle and tea party favorite Matt Bevin, told Cruz in the luncheon that Paul had backed away from the Senate Conservatives Fund months ago.
He thanked Cruz for his peace offering.
Earlier this month, the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsed Bevin over McConnell,
and on Oct. 22 unveiled a $330,000 ad attacking the Senate Republican leader.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, who also has been targeted by the Senate Conservatives Fund, has denounced tea party-affiliated groups allied with Cruz, reports the Dallas Morning News
, calling them a "destructive element."
Cornyn asserts that many contributors to the group don’t realize their money is being used to fund a primary campaign aimed at defeating incumbents, which, he says, will only end up helping Democrats win more Senate seats.
Cruz has been touted by conservatives as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, but when he aligned himself with the Senate Conservatives Fund during the government shutdown over Obamacare, he alienated most of his fellow GOP senators by tagging them as Washington insiders afraid of taking up the fight to defund the president's signature healthcare plan.
Making matters worse, according to Politico, Cruz refused a request from Republican senators at the start of the shutdown to denounce the efforts of Senate Conservatives Fund to defeat incumbents and distance himself from the group.
"I will not," Cruz reportedly said at a luncheon with senators.
Despite Cruz's pledge Wednesday to refrain from any involvement in primary campaigns, his spokeswoman said Cruz plans to continue his work with the Senate Conservatives Fund to promote conservative causes.
"He’ll continue working with them to promote common conservative policies but not get involved in their endorsement or fundraising decisions," Catherine Frazier said. "SCF’s organization is not just about primary politics but promoting conservative causes that Republicans across the spectrum can support."
She said Cruz's comments in private and public about his intentions regarding tea party challenges to GOP incumbents have been consistent. "He will likely not get involved in incumbent primaries," Frazier told Politico.
Ironically, Cruz is vice chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps protect GOP incumbents and recruit candidates to take on Democrats.
Like Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee also plans to continue to work with the Senate Conservatives Fund when their interests align, but won't endorse candidates against incumbent senators, his spokesman, Brian Phillips, told Politico.
Meanwhile, Matt Hoskins, Senate Conservatives Fund executive director, told Politico that the group decided some time ago that it wouldn't use Cruz and Lee in its fight to defeat some of the GOP's more moderate incumbents.
"These are our endorsements, not theirs, and it’s time for Americans to take the lead and use the political process to change Washington," he said.
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