Tea Party Support Doesn't Pour In to One Senate Candidate
Tea Party groups across the state, and even some county Republican parties, don't just support one Republican candidate for US Senate.
Mark Neumann's recent endorsement by the Tea Party Express probably made it look like he is the one and only Tea Party candidate going into Tuesday's senate primary.
Don't be so sure.
“Mark Neumann is a proven fiscal conservative,” said Amy Kremer, who founded the organization that is now the the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee. “He understands Washington is the problem, not the answer… Mark will be the next senator from Wisconsin. I firmly believe that.”
Another Tea Party PAC - Wisconsin Liberty - also came out in support of Mark Neumann. In a press release issued Monday, Neumann is the group's choice because he best embodies the PAC's central tenants of liberty, constitutional government, "sound money and free markets."
"The Wisconsin Liberty PAC is proud to endorse Mark Neumann for US Senate. Mark has a Congressional history of being a sharp budget hawk who puts our nation’s interests over his own political interests," said the group's founder and Chair, Todd D. Welch.
Not everyone's cup of tea
But last month, the Freedom Works PAC, another national Tea Party group, put its weight behind businessman Eric Hovde. Closer to home, the Racine Tea Party and the Sheboygan Liberty Coalition issued statements making it clear the Tea Party Express does not speak for their groups.
A written news release from the group clearly stated, "We the undersigned grassroots leaders and activists individually support Eric Hovde for United States Senate," the Racine Tea Party was sure to list the individuals to drive home the point that while Hovde is their candidate, they don't presume to speak for everyone associated with the group.
During an interview with Patch, Nancy Milholland in Racine said the Tea Party is a movement, not a party, so there really isn't a central leadership team.
"The Tea Party is a movement of fiscally conservative people without a single leader or spokesperson. We worded our release to be sure individuals were listed, not whole groups," she said. "The list does include leaders of groups around the state, but, even here in Racine, we have members who back Tommy Thompson and some do like Mark Neumann."
But, overall, what Milholland said wasn't sitting right with Tea Party members was that the TPE's statements and appearances made it look as though that group was speaking for all groups in Wisconsin.
"We don't want the Tea Party Express trying to represent every Tea Party movement, especially here in Wisconsin where some of us are still a bit sour over how Mark Neumann conducted his campaign against Gov. Walker," she said. "And they don't even have a chapter in Wisconsin so I don't understand the purpose of their endorsement."
Hovde is grateful for the support, saying it means a lot that groups like the Tea Party in Wisconsin stand behind him.
"Eric is well-received and the endorsement from local Tea Party groups and individuals is important because they're state residents, it comes from inside Wisconsin," said Sean Lansing, a spokesperson for Hovde's campaign.
The Sheboygan Liberty Coalition echoed Milholland's sentiment on their website, saying:
As most folks know, the TEA Party movement is a highly decentralized grassroots movement with no national leadership structure. Tea Party Express is in fact a California based organization, not even based in Wisconsin, so naturally, local TEA Parties are pretty steamed about the presumption and inference that they endorse Congressman Neumann in the closely fought battle for the nomination.
Roy Catron of the Patriots for Honest Government in Muskego said he's not too happy, either with the presumption that the TPE speaks for all Tea Party members.
"One of the main points of the Tea Party is that we're individuals who agree on a set of basic principles but beyond that, we have our own opinions," he said. "I don't appreciate the Tea Party Express acting like they represent all of us."
He said his first choice is Hovde while his wife, who is also a member of the Patriots, likes Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald. Still, whomever wins tomorrow will get the Patriots' support because the goal is to make sure a Democrat doesn't get the seat.
"I think any of the candidates would be good so that's not the issue," Catron added. "But I think we need some new blood who understands the economy and paying the debt. Even though Hovde lacks the experience, he has the knowledge and that's important."
Party lines not clearly drawn
County Republican parties aren't standing behind a particular candidate, either.
The Milwaukee County GOP, much like the state party, isn't endorsing any of the candidates at this point.
"We won't do that until voters decide in the primary," said a representative who answered the phone. "After the candidate is chosen, we will throw the full weight of our support behind that person."
The Waukesha County GOP also is also withholding its endorsement until after the primary.
"We will support whoever wins Tuesday," said the volunteer who answered the phone when Patch called.
In Racine County, the GOP issued a written release detailing who supports whom.
"Board members have their opinions so we thought it was more fair to list who we support individually than ignore the question," said Bill Folk, chair of the party.
Folk said he will vote for Fitzgerald because he's the most conservative and helped usher Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill through the legislature.
"He's the most conservative, and he's been tested in one of the toughest political climates in the country," Folk said.
Other Racine County GOP board members scatter their support amongst former Gov. Tommy Thompson, Fitzgerald and Hovde.
Joe Wurzelbacher - Joe the Plumber - was in Wisconsin Monday to stump for Thompson. He has been associated with the Tea Party in past elections, but told Patch he's more about getting things accomplished and less about being part of a movement.
"The Tea Party is a group of Americans from both parties and Independents who are sick of all the talk but no action in Washington," he said. "If they want to say I'm part of them, I'm okay with that, but I'm more about getting stuff done and not necessarily about being part of a movement. I want to help get people elected who get stuff done."
Thompson Monday also secured the support of former Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In a statement announcing Rumsfeld's endorsement, Thompson said his former colleague's support means a lot to him.
"Don and I served together during a tough period in our nation's history," Thompson said in his statement. "His resolve and toughness still inspire me today, and I deeply appreciate his support in this election."