The extent of the burgeoning divide between traditional Republicans and their tea party counterparts gets a test next week when Alabama voters decide in a special GOP primary who will represent them in the First Congressional District, The New York Times reports
Tuesday's election is the first since the 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government, which resulted in tea party lawmakers angering their moderate colleagues by refusing to back off their demands that Obamacare defunding be tied to a temporary spending bill.
The outcome of the primary race in the southern end of the state may provide an early indication of which direction the GOP is heading in next year's midterm elections and the 2016 presidential race.
Traditional Republicans, along with their business supporters, are fearful that a tea party mutiny in the House could result in sabotaging a Republican agenda that includes comprehensive immigration reform and revising the tax code.
In the Alabama race, big businesses like pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and AT&T are filling the campaign coffers of Bradley Byrne, a former state senator who won the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and has received donations from Republican heavy hitters, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Byrne’s opponent is tea party-backed Dean Young, an evangelical Christian outspoken about his opposition to homosexuality and Obamacare. His anti-government views appeal to the likes of supporters of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who championed the government shutdown, and helped to grow Young’s voter base, according to the Times.
“I’ve got an army of people that care about this nation,” Young told a crowd during a recent debate.“We’re on our own, but that’s OK, because when we win, it sends a bigger message.”
The Chamber of Commerce, a lobbying organization representing more than 3 million businesses across the nation, will be shelling out big bucks in the coming year to protect the pro-business makeup of the majority of lawmakers in Congress, according to Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director.
“In addition to protecting that majority, we are also very interested in what is the composition of that majority,” Engstrom told a campaign crowd in Mobile, where he publicly endorsed Byrne, according to the Times.
Though Byrne has raised significantly more money
than Young, that doesn’t necessarily mean victory. Recent elections in the Heart of Dixie have shown that conservative Christians can win big races, according to the Times.
A similar scene is playing out in Michigan, where businessman Brian Ellis is trying to unseat House Republican Justin Amash, a lawyer and tea party favorite who was a key player in the government shutdown. Business groups are getting behind Ellis, an investment manager from Grand Rapids.
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