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. Dano

    Primary victories are not the same as getting elected. It 's much more difficult to appeal to a majority of voters across the political spectrum than to win an endorsement from like minded supporters. If tea party endorsed candidates start winning elections in November then they'll be newsworthy. Unless that happens they're just a fringe group much like the Green or Libertarian parties who manage to get candidates on the ballot but never garner more than 4-5% of the votes.

    June 23, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  2. Mr Bill

    While the Tea Party may have some influence in some of these elections, there are also other factors such as the opponents past history, stance on key issues, backing by other groups (such as the Republican party), etc.
    Let's not over-rate their influence at this point.

    June 23, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  3. kd

    I live in Utah, and I can say that this place is crazy on a lot of levels but particularly politics. No where in the US would people vote the way they do here. Lee is a fool, believing that there is only one single interpretation of the Constitution. He considers himself a 'constitutional lawyer' and promoted himself as such. Any reasonable mind knows how insane the sentiment Lee professes is. How many times has the Supreme Court been unanimous in their decisions? Less that 1% of the time? Even if all politics were eliminated from the Supreme Court, there would rarely or never be 9-0 decisions.

    Lee will be another grandstanding fool from Utah (Rep Chaffetz, Orrin Hatch and Rep Bishop being the other three nuts) that does nothing but get airplay and print for the wacky things they says, does and believes. Lee will hinder any real progress or even real work in federal government. Tea Baggers are completely ineffective every other place in the country but wacky Utah and, believe me, this country does not want to be anything like this state at all.

    June 23, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  4. Roll On

    Great, keep on, it's time we had a group to offset the movin on and acorn type groups who support all the give away programs of working class tax money

    June 23, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  5. sensible Cape Coral FL

    God help our beloved country if this is the best we can do.

    June 23, 2010 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  6. Larry from Texas

    The Tea Party's successes are directly attributable to the covert funding provided by the ultra-right-wing. They'll have their biggest gains in the wacko states – especially those populated with white, religious fundamentalists. Firing-up those wide-eyed extremists isn't too hard and actual solution sets aren't required for the problems they perceive to be "destroying America". You just grab a catchy sound-bite and you're on your way...

    June 23, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  7. shawn

    Ha ha. These right-wing freaks will be destroyed in November. They are totally unelectable and the best thing to happen to Democrats since Obama.

    June 23, 2010 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  8. Jeff

    The tea party is given too much credit. The party is not responsible for any losses or wins. These racist red-neck know that. For the most part, many Americans are too smart to support such a group. CNN has learned that the Tea Party and Palin attract readers. CNN needs to follow the lead of Maddow and Olbermann and just report facts and stop spinning like a Fox.

    June 23, 2010 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. BlackUSAguy

    The tea party is taking out the traditional GOP. Finally someone sees them for what they are.

    June 23, 2010 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  10. obama victim

    be afraid libs..............very afraid

    June 23, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    Winning on their side of the aisle is one thing. A constituency faced with a Democrat or the tin foil hat contingent might well prefer the Democrat, even in a "conservative" district.

    June 23, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  12. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    That's nice. However, the proof will be in the pudding come NOvember!

    June is a long ways away from NOvember!

    Ronald Reagan's poll numbers were the same as Barack Obama's...... and by the time the mid-terms came along the economy was recovering nicely after almost 3 years! (Twin Recessions of '81 & '82 and a 10% unemployment rate).......... Reagan won a second term easily.

    June 23, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. Rick McDaniel

    More lawyers in Congress, will not serve the people of this country, well. Look at what we have gained from all the lawyers in Washington, now.

    Dictatorship.

    June 23, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. Alan Crawford

    Don't read too much into Lee's "tea party" victory. The voter turnout was a pathetic 10% of registered Utah voters. He won 51% vs. 49% over his opponent Bridgewater. So Utah's next senator just got elected by 5% of the Utah electorate. Ah, democracy in action. This actually shows how small of a deal the tea party really is.

    June 23, 2010 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  15. Larry

    "The Tea Party Express" ... what a joke

    Just like Palin, they will do or say anything to get themselves in the news

    Are they going to claim some type of victory EVERY time a Republican wins

    The Republicans and the T P E are one in the same

    What an absolute JOKE the Republican party has become

    June 23, 2010 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  16. Are the American People so dumb as to put back the Replubican party in Power?

    The Republican Party did not work with The Democrat and President Obama to clean up the mess that they left the country in after 8 years of neglect. Why would American want to put them back in Power.
    Obama and the Democrats are working their butts off to bring the country back.. It is extremely hard but they are trying give them a chance. Obama said that it would be hard and it will take time. Anyone with an ounce of intelligent should know that. What you think the Replubilcan could do better?.

    June 23, 2010 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  17. NVa Native

    MacCarthy-ism is alive and well. And the tea-baggers will receive the same fate as his arrogance and ignorance fell upon him. A national disgrace.

    June 23, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  18. Shari from Madison WI

    Yeah things are really going to be great with more far right wing tea party people in government. Seriously though, here is what I see happending: Equal rights will be for only white American born people, the rich will continue to get richer, the poor getting poorer and the middle class will become extinct.

    June 23, 2010 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. Larry

    I.m sure ALL of us would have a real Loooong list of Republicans and Tea Party Express'ers , that "are like lame race horses, some who never served ANY purpose"

    We could writes books on the subject .....

    June 23, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  20. Sniffit

    ""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."

    Who do they and the "news" media think they're fooling? Let's translate that quote to make it a little more accurate:

    "We are so excited to see another REPUBLICAN win a critical election..."

    That's better. Don't want anyone out there to actually get confused about the reality of the whole thing.

    June 23, 2010 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  21. David in Houston

    So, he wasn't on the ballot & isn't even based in Utah but was still voted in to represent its residents?

    Interesting. I guess the folks who voted for him must've really liked his tin-foil hat...

    June 23, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  22. Silence DoGood

    It is time for this country to see some alternatives to the Republican-Democratic single party system.

    Agree or disagree, choice is good.

    June 23, 2010 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  23. Lynn

    If the Tea Partiers want smaller government, who will they ask to clean up the next oil spill or hurricane disaster? They claim they want the government out of their lives, only until they need them. Hypocrits

    June 23, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  24. to see another tea party candidate win a critical election

    that is all we need, to encourage the quacks

    June 23, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. Bruce

    Hoyer said that the Tea party advocates are negative? LOL What a jerk. TYey are doing what we are allowed to do in this country, that's protest. Hoyer is lucky he is in Maryland where they would vote in a monkey if it was a Democrat, otherwise, his liberal butt would be out to.

    June 23, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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