On August 2nd, 5 GOP candidates seeking re-election to the Tennessee State legislature discovered just how dangerous it can be to disdain the wishes of those conservatives who helped put them in office.
In 2010, members of various Tea Party groups in Tennessee donated the necessary time and money to put Republicans in charge of both the legislature and the governor’s mansion for the first time in 150 years. But after 2 years, not one of the top 10 Tea Party priorities placed before the Republican–controlled legislature had been implemented. Those priorities were based upon “…re-asserting state sovereignty over unconstitutional Federal abuses,” writes Tea Party steering committee member Van Irion. Yet rather than assist the Tea Party groups that had both drafted legislation and lobbied members of both legislative houses, “…the Tennessee Republican Party treated the Tea Party with contempt.”
In 2012, Tea Party officials decided the only way to gain the respect and attention of Republican politicians was to “…PROVE to the [GOP] that the Tea Party had power at the ballot box.” And the best way to do that was to initiate a “RINO Hunt!”
Four-term incumbent and Chairwoman of the Republican Caucus Debbie Maggart was selected as the RINO upon whom the sights of these Tea Party hunters would be trained. A ranking member of GOP leadership, Maggart had a bunch of campaign cash to spend and enjoyed the endorsement of both the Party and its leaders.
BUT she had also “actively fought” against the wishes of state Tea Partiers, incurring the wrath of voters and the National Rifle Association for her stance against NRA backed legislation.
As a result, not only did Maggart lose to Tea Party endorsed candidate, retired Lt. Col Courtney Rogers, she lost BIG! Money poured into Rogers’ campaign from Tea Party groups and conservative PACs all over the state. The NRA paid for ads and billboards linking Maggart to Barack Obama. And when the smoke cleared on election night, the stunned incumbent had been defeated by 12 percentage points, truly an old-time drubbing.
Along with this principle target of conservative efforts, 4 other Republicans legislators with less than acceptable voting records were removed from office, and 2 more are involved in recounts. As Irion puts it, “every Republican in the Tennessee Legislature knows what just happened. They were aware that the Tea Party had targeted Maggart. They were aware that the other RINOs were being targeted. Now they’ve seen the result.”
Though Republicans may continue to ignore the legislative demands of Tea Parties and other conservative groups, they now know that a price will have to be paid on Election Day. For the focused energy of conservative voters can put at risk the political career of even the most powerful of Republican politicians.
In 2 years, South Carolina RINO Senator Lindsey Graham will be the principle political target of conservatives throughout the nation. Look for him to join Lugar, Bennett, and other “Republicans in Name Only” in the growing ranks of unemployed sellouts.
Photo credit: formatted_dad (Creative Commons)