Tea Party Leaders Preparing for Primary Fights to Bolster GOP's Ideological Purity

Back in January the Christian Science Monitor declared “Scott Brown: the tea party’s first electoral victory,” following his surprise win in the special election to fill the Senate seat of the late Ted Kennedy. But now the Boston Globe reports that conservatives and Tea Party activists are mulling over a primary challenge to the Massachusetts Republican. According to the Globe, Brown’s votes in favor of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, ratifying the START Treaty, and reforming Wall Street (but only after it was watered down to win his support) made him toxic to many Tea Party members and other movement conservatives. The Family Research Council has pledged to back a primary challenger to any Senator who voted to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and the National Republican Trust PAC promised to do the same to any Republican who supported START.

More surprisingly, movement conservatives in Virginia are hoping to block George Allen from running again for the seat he lost to Jim Webb in 2006. Allen, a former Senator and Governor best known for using a racial slur against his opponent’s campaign worker, is already finding himself in trouble with Tea Party groups even though he hasn’t even announced his candidacy yet. The Washington Post reports that Allen’s voting record in the Senate may sink his chances among Virginia Tea Partiers:

For months, it appeared that former U.S. senator George Allen would have a clear path to the Republican nomination if he chose to try to reclaim his old job.

But in the summer, grumbling about his past began, culminating in a Web site outlining the reasons some fellow Republicans oppose him: He's too moderate. He's part of the establishment. He's partly to blame for the record spending and ballooning deficit in Washington.

By this month, no fewer than four Republicans billing themselves as more conservative than Allen were considering challenging him for the right to run against Sen. James Webb, if the Virginia Democrat seeks reelection.

"There are some concerns based on his record and his rhetoric," said Mark Kevin Lloyd, chairman of the Lynchburg Tea Party and vice chairman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation, a statewide umbrella group. "People are looking at things in a new light," he said.

Allen, who received a 92.3% lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, was hardly considered a moderate in the Senate. But apparently 92% isn’t enough:

But during his one term in the U.S. Senate, some Republicans complain, he backed President George W. Bush's proposals to increase spending; supported No Child Left Behind, a costly program to create a national education report card; favored a federal program to subsidize the costs of prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries; and voted to expand the Hate Crimes Prevention Act to include crimes based on sexual orientation.

Jamie Ratdke, who recently stepped down as chairwoman of the Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation in order to explore a Senate bid, said she began to consider a run for the Senate after attending a Tea Party convention that featured Rick Santorum, Lou Dobbs, and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinnelli as speakers:

Radtke said that she had considered running for the state Senate next year but that she began thinking about the U.S. Senate instead after Virginia's first tea party convention, which drew an estimated 2,800 people to Richmond in October.

Radtke, who worked for Allen for a year when he was governor and she was right out of college, said it's time for a new candidate. She said that Allen was part of "George Bush's expansion of government" when he was senator and that she was concerned about some of his stances on abortion.

Allen has said that abortions should be legal in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is endangered, and he owned stock in the manufacturer of the morning-after pill.

If George Allen is deemed not conservative enough for the Republican Party, then expect many more extremist candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell to win contested GOP primaries. Allen hurt his chances by supporting healthcare and education initiatives that were backed by President Bush and the Republican leadership, and is also deemed too moderate because he voted to include sexual orientation under hate crimes protections and believes in exceptions under a ban on abortion.

While running for reelection in 2006, Allen received wide praise at FRC’s Values Voter Summit for his staunch conservative beliefs, but now he is under attack from the Right for being “too moderate” even though he hasn’t served in public office since he lost the 2006 race. As Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County board of supervisors and a likely primary opponent, says, Allen’s “base has moved on.”