Thursday, September 16, 2010

Steele Says Tea Party Won't Hurt GOP In Key Va. Races

RICHMOND, Va. — Independent conservatives running with tea party backing in key Virginia House races won't be spoilers for GOP challengers to freshmen Democratic congressmen, the Republican National Committee chairman said Wednesday.
Candidates on the party's right championed by tea party groups beat establishment Republicans in New Hampshire and Delaware primaries Tuesday. A day later, Michael Steele dismissed suggestions that tea party-backed candidates in the 2nd and 5th Congressional Districts would dilute support for GOP nominees.

"Our folks don't need to run around being scared or afraid of the tea party," Steele told reporters before a rally with Chuck Smith, a longshot Republican challenger to nine-term Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.

"A lot of these folks were card-carrying Republicans four or five years ago who felt that the party had walked away" from core principles including the Contract With America, Steele said.

The contract was a series of conservative reforms proposed in 1994 during a midterm election two years into Democrat Bill Clinton's presidency when Republicans gained control of the House and Senate.

But in the two House races Republicans are targeting in Virginia, there are tea party candidates on the ballot alongside the Democratic and Republican nominees.

Kenny Golden, a longtime Republican activist, is competing with Republican Scott Rigell to unseat Rep. Glenn Nye, a moderate Democrat, in the Hampton Roads 2nd District.

In central and Southside Virginia's 5th District, Jeff Clark, a poorly funded tea party favorite, is vying with state Sen. Robert Hurt to deny Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello a second term.

Asked if the tea party candidates could split the Republican and conservative vote, Steele shot back, "We don't know that."

"We'll see what happens. Everybody's got to state their case with the American people, the people in the various districts in the state," Steele said. "We don't get to pick and choose who represents the American people. Guess what? They do."

Democrats control six of Virginia's 11 U.S. House seats. The GOP took aim at Perriello and Nye from the moment they ousted Republican incumbents in the 2008 Democratic landslide led by Barack Obama, the first Democrat to carry Virginia in a presidential race since 1964.

Steele and Smith addressed about 100 people in a renovated art deco movie theater in a middle-class Richmond suburb.

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