Although the stunning upset win by political newcomer David Perdue in the Republican runoff for the Senate was the big news from Georgia on Tuesday night, the tea party also had a night to remember in the Peach State.
In two of three runoffs for the Republican nomination for Congress in open U.S. House districts, tea party-backed candidates emerged triumphant and are now considered certain to win in November.
The biggest win was scored by former state senator and swashbuckling conservative Barry Loudermilk in the 11th District in suburban Atlanta that Rep. Phil Gingrey relinquished to run for the Senate. He placed fourth in the initial primary in May.
Loudermilk rolled up a margin of 2-to-1 over former Rep. Bob Barr, known nationally for his role as a Clinton impeachment manager in 1998 and for running as the Libertarian nominee for president in 2008.
But Loudermilk hit hardest at a 2009 letter Barr wrote supporting the nomination of Eric Holder for U.S. Attorney General. Insisting that "my letter was based on my professional association with Holder during his time as an attorney in private practice during the Bush administration," Barr never recovered from his association with the administration figure conservatives loathe for Operation Fast and Furious and opposition to Republican voter ID laws.
Loudermilk, a U.S. Air Force veteran, courted tea party groups with his vow not to raise the debt ceiling unless major changes in policy are made. He also had a strong following among values voters with his record of support for traditional marriage and anti-abortion legislation.
In the 10th District, pastor Jody Hice defeated businessman Mike Collins with 54 percent of the vote. Hice, who has a popular radio program, tied himself closely to outgoing Republican Rep. Paul Broun, who left the House to unsuccessfully seek the GOP Senate nod. Like Broun, Hice ran as a "constitutional conservative" and unabashed opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage.
Collins, son of former Rep. Mac Collins, was backed by much of the local business community, and while taking generally conservative stands, he was nowhere near as outspoken as Hice.
The only exception to the wins of "tea party" conservatives for Congress in Georgia was the victory of state Sen. Buddy Franklin in the 1st District in southeast Georgia. Long considered a close ally of outgoing Rep. and U.S. Senate hopeful Jack Kingston, Franklin defeated physician and tea party-backed conservative Bob Johnson with 54 percent of the vote.
The major difference between the two was Obamacare. Where wealthy pharmacist Franklin said "so far the law isn’t bad" and suggested it needed amending, Johnson became a tea party hero by branding Obamacare the worst legislation ever written in American history." Among those backing Johnson were the Club for Growth, Senate Conservatives Fund, Citizens United, and Tea Party Express.
As the runoff drew closer, Franklin took a harder line on Obamacare and promised to "delay, defund, and defeat" the controversial measure.
Although 11-term Rep. Kingston never endorsed a candidate to succeed him in the House, many of his longtime supporters in the business community were in the Franklin camp. In addition, former Newt Gingrich aide John McCallum, who placed third in the initial primary, came out for Franklin in the runoff.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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