June 23rd, 2010
10:02 AM ET
4 years ago

Another victory for the Tea Party Express

(CNN) – One of the winners in Tuesday's primaries in Utah wasn't on the ballot, and isn't even based in the state.

Republican candidate for the Senate Mike Lee was victorious in the battle for his party's nomination, but his win can also be seen as another primary victory for the Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party organization based in California.

The group, best known for its three high profile national bus tours, endorsed Lee and launched a radio campaign and a get out the vote effort to assist the candidate.

"We are so excited to see another tea party candidate win a critical election, and the voters in Utah will be well-served with Mike Lee in the U.S. Senate," said Tea Party Express Political Director Bryan Shroyer, in a statement.

Lee, a lawyer and one-time clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, was also endorsed by Freedom Works. The nonprofit conservative organization that helps train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organizational heft behind the Tea Party movement assisted in the get-out-the-vote efforts in Utah for Lee.

Lee also won the endorsement of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. The former GOP presidential candidate is a leading figure in the libertarian movement

Lee edged out businessman and fellow conservative Tim Bridgewater in the GOP Senate primary contest. Bridgewater was backed the day before the election by the leader of a Utah based Tea Party group.

Bridgewater, a businessman, and Lee, finished first and second, respectively, last month at the Utah Republican Party convention, advancing to Tuesday's primary. Sen. Bob Bennett, who finished third in the voting by delegates, was eliminated from advancing to the primary, ending his chances of re-election for a fourth term. Bennett became the first sitting senator to go down to defeat in a primary season marked by strong anti-incumbent sentiment.

Earlier this year, the Tea Party Express was among a number of conservative groups to actively work to defeat Bennett. The organization's third cross country bus tour included stops in Utah in March, where Tea Party Express leaders urged Republican voters to defeat Bennett in his bid for re-election.

Lee's victory is the second statewide win for the Tea Party Express this month. They recently pumped more than $500,000 into the fight for the Republican Senate nomination in neighboring Nevada, helping transform ex-state lawmaker Sharron Angle, once considered a long shot, into an easy winner in the primary election.

The Tea Party Express also takes partial credit for convincing longtime Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan not to run for re-election this year. Stupak announced his decision in April not to make a bid for another term, as the group was targeting the lawmaker with rallies in his district during their most recent cross country bus tour.

At the time, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admitted that the protests and rallies by Tea Party activists across the country were having an impact on lawmakers' decisions about running for another term.

"Do I think that negative atmosphere that's been created by the Tea Party and by others certainly goes into the thinking of Members? I think it does. I think you honestly have to point out that it does," Hoyer told reporters at a weekly pen and pad session in the Capitol.

But Hoyer maintained that Tea Party activists had nothing to do with Stupak's announcement not to run for re-election. "Bart Stupak is a very courageous Member; he wasn't forced out by anybody." said Hoyer.

The Tea Party Express also takes some credit for helping Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in January's special election for the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. The group endorsed Brown and put up television ads in support of the candidate.

So what's next for the Tea Party Express?

Alaska.

The group is targeting Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as she gears up for a re-election bid. Tea Party Express says it will devote "its full attention and resources towards defeating" Murkowski, and is backing Joe Miller, a little known candidate who challenging the incumbent senator and vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

"Lisa Murkowski embodies all that is wrong with Washington D.C. politicians and its time to retire her, like a lame race horse who has long since served its purpose," said Dustin Stockton, Director of Grassroots & Coalitions for the Tea Party Express, in a email release.

–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: Tea Party Express • Utah
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Clifford in New York

    "We the people"........................................are coming!

    June 23, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
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