In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R), wasn’t exactly tea partiers’ preferred candidate. But now some tea party organizations seem to be giving the nominee a quiet boost — or at least are still set on bashing Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC).
On Wednesday the Tea Party Express sent out an email calling on supporters to help “Defeat Harry Reid’s Sinister Six.” Hagan was listed alongside Sens. Mark Begich (D-AK), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), the Democratic Senate candidate in his state. The Republican primaries in those states have been relatively mild with comparatively less or even no fighting between establishment and tea-party aligned candidates. North Carolina, by contrast, was one of the most heated Republican primaries in the 2014 cycle.
A day earlier the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund sent out a similar fundraising email targeting just Hagan.
“Barack Obama and his liberal Democrat allies are pouring money and campaign resources into North Carolina like crazy,” Tea Party Patriots Chairman Jenny Beth Martin wrote in the email. “They are desperate to save leftist Senator Kay Hagan. Tea Party volunteers in North Carolina need our help to win this critical Senate seat.”
Establishment-backed Tillis defeated Dr. Greg Brannon, another candidate in the primary, who was actually the favorite of the insurgent tea party wing of the Republican party.
In the general election the race has managed to stay competitive. The TPM Polltracker average currently gives her a 4.7 point lead over Tillis.
Rooting for an establishment candidate isn’t ideal, but trying to get supporters to defeat Hagan is better than the alternative, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund communications director Kevin Broughton told TPM.
“Obviously Thom Tillis isn’t our preferred candidate in North Carolina but he is the one non-Kay Hagan candidate and he’s the one candidate who will be a backstop,” Broughton said. “If he takes that seat then the chances of our ultimate goal that I mentioned earlier and that’s preventing a runaway rubber stamp president for two years and our chances are better Thom Tillis than Kay Hagan.”
Broughton said North Carolina is just one of the races where his group would be involved going forward in the 2014 election cycle, despite the fact that tea party-favored candidates didn’t win in those states. Broughton said Iowa, where state Sen. Joni Ernst, a favorite of both the establishment and the tea party, as well as North Carolina and possibly Georgia, would be priorities.
“At the end of the day, from a conservative perspective, these Republicans are closer to our agenda than the Democrats,” a top policy advisor for a top tea party-aligned group told TPM. “However, conservatives will not give them any grace period once they are elected and will hold them accountable for the promises they make on the campaign trail. We will not wait several years to wake up and realize we’ve been duped.”