Tags: tea | party | cochran | runoff

Tea Party Revived as Cochran Runoff Looms Ahead of House Races

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 11:35 AM

Chris McDaniel breathed new life into the Tea Party movement, mostly contained this year by a business-aligned faction of the Republican Party, as he appeared to have forced U.S. Senator Thad Cochran into a runoff nomination race in Mississippi.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting early today, McDaniel had 49.6 percent while Cochran had 48.9 percent, according to an Associated Press tally. If neither reaches the 50 percent mark, they will face each other in a June 24 contest to determine the Republican Senate nominee.

A third party candidate, Thomas Carey, had 1.6 percent in yesterday’s balloting.

Throughout the campaign, McDaniel, 41, criticized Cochran, 76, for his focus on securing government money for projects, even if many of the dollars flowed back to Mississippi. The state ranked second nationally -- behind New Mexico -- for federal spending received per taxes paid, in an analysis released in 2007 by the Washington-based Tax Foundation, a nonprofit that favors a simpler tax system.

While Cochran didn’t concede the race last night, his campaign tweeted that “less than 500 votes” separated the candidates at one point. A “new campaign starts tomorrow. Three weeks to victory!” the posting on Twitter said.

McDaniel, a state senator, told his supporters, “Victory is going to be ours, one way or the other.”

Democratic Opening

A McDaniel nomination may jeopardize Republican efforts to gain the net six seats in November needed to win control of the Senate by creating an opening for a Democratic pick-up in a state that should easily be in the Republican column. Former U.S. Representative Travis Childers, 56, yesterday easily won Mississippi’s Democratic Senate nomination.

“Mississippi is a very Republican state and this is proving to be a good year for the party, so it shouldn’t matter who wins the nomination,” said Jennifer Duffy, who studies Senate races as a senior editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. “But McDaniel will cause strategists heartburn because he has already made his share of mistakes.”

The final days of the primary contest were dominated by a bizarre incident involving a secret -- and possibly illegal -- nursing home photo of Cochran’s wife, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. McDaniel’s supporters are accused of taking those pictures, while his campaign and the candidate have denied any knowledge or involvement in the actions.

McDaniel’s County

Cochran led McDaniel during the early part of last night’s count, hovering just over a majority of the vote. McDaniel jumped ahead after a full count was reported from his home of Jones County, where he won 85 percent of the vote. That was the best showing by either candidate in any of state’s 82 counties.

After the McDaniel-Cochran race is decided, the power struggle between the limited-government Tea Party movement and pro-business Republicans will pivot to House primary races.

The redirection brings the battle back to where it began -- in the chamber where business leaders and their allies were infuriated by Tea Party opposition to a 2013 vote to lift federal debt ceiling and avoid a government default.

For the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest business-lobbying group in Washington, the focus will be protecting friends and eliminating a few House members that the organization considers troublemakers.

“We will continue to engage in races where we think we can make a difference and elect candidates who support free enterprise, are interested in governing and can win in November,” said Blair Holmes, a chamber spokeswoman.

Coalition’s Successes

In about a half-dozen earlier Republican primaries pitting Tea Party-aligned challengers against incumbents this year, the business coalition has had the upper hand, as has been the case in the Senate races. Before McDaniel’s close race with Cochran, the small-government movement has secured just one Senate primary victory, in an open Nebraska seat.

Last month, Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho trounced Tea Party-aligned challenger Bryan Smith, and Representative Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the House transportation committee, also defended his seat against a similar challenge.

The business community weighed in on a Republican Senate primary in Georgia to knock off two other targets.

The chamber helped U.S. Representative Jack Kingston qualify for a July runoff election against David Perdue, a former chief executive officer of Dollar General Corp. and Reebok International Ltd. That meant Tea Party-aligned Representatives Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun were eliminated in the Senate race, with no chance to regain their House seats.

More Losses

Last night, Tea Party-aligned candidates lost primaries in Alabama and New Jersey districts held by retiring Republicans.

While control of the U.S. Senate remains the main prize in November’s election, the outcome of the House showdowns could also reshape governing in Washington.

The business lobby’s aim is to send a chilling message to the Tea Party’s most zealous members, while also bolstering Republicans who have been loyal to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and taken tough votes, such as those raising the federal debt ceiling.

The chamber hasn’t said how much it will spend in the 2014 election, though it probably will exceed its 2010 total of $33.8 million. The organization has already aired television ads in more than 20 House and Senate races.

Infrastructure Issue

With Republicans expected to retain their House majority in November’s elections, a reduced Tea Party caucus -- now numbering about three or four dozen members among the House’s 233 Republicans -- could give Boehner greater flexibility in 2015. It may decrease the intra-party fighting that’s plagued him since he became speaker in 2011 and help with passage of business priorities, including infrastructure spending.

Among the key House contests to come is one in upstate New York, where Representative Richard Hanna, who supports abortion rights and same-sex marriage, is opposed in the June 24 primary by state Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, who’s a Tea Party ally.

A super-political action committee founded and funded by Paul Singer, the billionaire founder of New York-based investment firm Elliott Management, is spending more than $500,000 to attack Tenney’s votes on budget and tax matters. Singer formed the organization, American Unity PAC, to encourage Republicans to support same-sex marriage.

In Michigan, two Tea Party favorites -- Republican Representatives Kerry Bentivolio and Justin Amash -- are opposed by some business interests in their Aug. 5 primary races.

Michigan Targets

The chamber and its Michigan affiliate are intervening in Michigan’s 11th District near Detroit to aid Bentivolio’s primary opponent, David Trott, a lawyer who served on the state chamber’s board.

Trott raised $1.7 million for the 2014 election through March, more than $1 million ahead of Bentivolio, who was elected in 2012 after the incumbent resigned following a petition- signature scandal.

“We certainly have nothing negative to say about Mr. Bentivolio,” said Jim Holcomb, senior vice president and general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. “It’s just that our members, they looked at it and they thought Dave was by far the better choice for his vision, for working with others, for getting something done.”

Bentivolio’s backers include the Sacramento, California- based Tea Party Express, a political action committee, and Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho, who opposed Boehner’s re- election as speaker last year.

Grand Rapids

Amash, who also opposed Boehner for speaker, is trying to fend off a well-funded challenge from businessman Brian Ellis in the district in and around Grand Rapids.

Ellis has received campaign donations from the political action committees of Dow Chemical Co., Home Depot Inc. and Republican Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, the House intelligence committee chairman who’s retiring.

Amash’s financial backers include the PACs of the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, Koch Industries, Inc. Members of the DeVos family and others associated with Amway Corp. are also aiding his re-election.

The Michigan chamber hasn’t said if it will intervene in the Amash-Ellis primary. “That’s one we’re watching,” Holcomb said.

“We are looking at that race and working closely with the Michigan Chamber, but have not made any decisions,” said Holmes, the U.S. Chamber spokeswoman.

To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net; Greg Giroux in Washington at ggiroux@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net Don Frederick

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Chris McDaniel breathed new life into the Tea Party movement, mostly contained this year by a business-aligned faction of the Republican Party, as he appeared to have forced U.S. Senator Thad Cochran into a runoff nomination race in Mississippi.With 99 percent of precincts...
tea, party, cochran, runoff
Wednesday, 04 June 2014 11:35 AM
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