June 23rd, 2010
08:55 AM ET
4 years ago

Tea Party backed candidate closer to US Senate

Mike Lee (far left) captured the GOP Senate nomination in Utah Tuesday night.
Mike Lee (far left) captured the GOP Senate nomination in Utah Tuesday night.

(CNN) - A Tea Party backed candidate in Utah is a major step closer Wednesday morning to joining the U.S. Senate.

Mike Lee, a 38 year old attorney, captured the GOP Senate nomination in Utah Tuesday, edging out fellow conservative Tim Bridgewater, in a battle to succeed another Republican, Sen. Bob Bennett.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Lee beat Bridgewater 51 percent to 49 percent, according to a vote count by Associated Press.

"We had an army of hard-fighting, hard-campaigning volunteers and they just refused to quit because they believed in our message," said Lee late Tuesday night, according to local reports.

Bridgewater, a businessman, and Lee finished first and second, respectively last month at the Utah Republican Party convention, advancing to Tuesday's primary.

Bridgewater and Lee touted themselves as more reliable conservatives than Bennett, who finished third in the voting by delegates, eliminating him from advancing to the primary and 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.

After deciding not to mount a write-in campaign, Bennett endorsed Bridgewater, who was also backed the day before the primary by the leader of a Utah based Tea Party group.

Lee, a one-time clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, grabbed the endorsement of the Tea Party Express, which launched a radio campaign and a get out the vote effort to assist the candidate.

The Tea Party Express, a national group based in California that's best known for its three national bus tours, recently pumped more than $500,000 into the recent 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 a primary election held earlier this month.

"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.

FreedomWorks also endorsed Lee, and its volunteers assisted in get-out-the-vote efforts in Utah. FreedomWorks is a nonprofit conservative
organization that helps train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organizational heft behind the Tea Party movement.

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

Bennett upset many conservatives with his 2007 vote for President Bush's plan for a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants and his 2008 vote for the federal bailout of banks and financial institutions. The fiscally conservative Club for Growth actively worked to defeat Bennett, as did local Tea Party organizations and Tea Party Express.

The GOP dominates statewide elections in Utah, and Lee will be considered the overwhelming favorite to win the general election in November. He'll face off against Democratic nominee Sam Granato, a restaurant owner and chairman of the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Lee wants to cut spending in Washington and limit the powers of the federal government.

"The federal government must be returned to the limited scope envisioned by the framers of the Constitution," states Lee's campaign website.

He also calls for the repeal of the new health care reform law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.

–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn


Filed under: 2010 • Mike Lee • Tea Party Express • Utah
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. American Patriot - a "real" tea partier

    Be afraid.

    Be very afraid.

    June 23, 2010 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  2. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    "The federal government must be returned to the limited scope envisioned by the framers of the Constitution," states Lee's campaign website.

    This statement is meaningless because the framers thought that a "well informed citizenry" would be able to make good decisions. This is, in part, why Congress was established to make laws. The Framers couldn't envision everything that could have happened. They couldn't have envisioned the Great Depression of the 1930's any of the modern weapons of the 20th & 21first centuries just to name a few. If we could have a more respectful, informed and honest (stating where you came from) discussion, then we might be able to advance the country. People like Beck and Limbaugh on the right that fail to fully inform their entertained public don't help the country.

    June 23, 2010 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  3. gary

    The thing I like about the tea party is the fiscal responsibility...no new taxes! cut spending. Cut war spending! Cut welfare spending! Cut social security spending! Cut food stamps, unemployment, disability, bank bail outs etc, etc....the government should focus on domestic security and education. Everyone age 18 to 70 should work, everyone should pay some taxes. Listen to the tea baggers and this country will get back on track!

    June 23, 2010 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  4. Djinn

    Gee, another numb-nut whacko backed by the upper middle class baggers. Another distraction from getting the country back in working order. What a bunch of DF obstructionists.

    June 23, 2010 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  5. Chuck Anaheim, Ca

    And this will do what for the average US citizen? The majority of us do not want to relive the 19th century.

    June 23, 2010 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  6. Save America, impeach the treasonous republicans

    Lee does appear to be the republican dream candidate. His determination to limit the powers of federal government should help the oil industry, and eliminate: social security, medicare, health reform, wall street reform, FDA, FDIC, national parks, and put corporations ahead of citizens.

    Armey's Armey has really picked a true bagger in Lee.

    June 23, 2010 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  7. Peter E

    Yeah, yeah, CNN likes to taut that its prediction of the anti-incumbency winning big will come true... And yet almost all the wins by the Tea Party were in open seats, NOT against incumbents. Incumbents won over 90% of all primaries where they've run for re-election so far, and that trend will continue into the general election as well.

    June 23, 2010 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  8. JonDie

    He'll fit right in with the "do nothing" Republicans that are already there.

    June 23, 2010 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  9. TOTUS 4 PRESIDENT

    Lampoon and diss the Tea Parties at your own peril...

    June 23, 2010 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  10. FactCheck

    So that tremendous wave of anti-incumbency that you teabaggers were all screaming about boils down to a single viable candidate from the whitest state in the Union, eh? Sounds about right considering that you all are all bark and absolutely no bite.

    June 23, 2010 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  11. Randall in Torrance, CA - Yeah, the Tea Party message is: "destroy the middle class"

    If you are Tea PArty advocate, then you are a Nazi right wing toothless, mindless, Fox News Noise junkie, with zero thinking skills, who hates people other than the pure white race. You God is Corporate business and your momma is Jarge Bush.

    June 23, 2010 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  12. Minnesotan

    The last thing America needs is rabid left-wing Tea Party whackos in office. That's called "The End of Days" and utterly stupid. Ugh!

    June 23, 2010 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Even if this tea bag makes it to Washington, he'll change his tune as soon as he gets there.....

    June 23, 2010 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  14. Rich in PA

    The way CNN is reporting this it's like he has already won the general election. Why bother even having elections, just assume the Republicans and Te Party are going to win. After all, they deserve it since they are real Americans.

    June 23, 2010 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  15. snow

    Bennett voted for nobummers spending plans so now he is out. There will be alot others who will follow him out of DC.

    June 23, 2010 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  16. Kevin H

    So the Tea Party believes a Republican lawyer will be different than all the other Republican lawyers in Washington ?

    June 23, 2010 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  17. Matt

    Both candidates are great. Mike Lee will do a good job.

    I wish Bridgewater could win a seat in another state. He'd be great, too.

    June 23, 2010 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  18. Rush Limbaugh marries ambulance chaser,and were still laughing

    Poor Bob Bennett,he never saw the bus coming.He sold his soul for a bag of cash and go finish growing some more corn for fuel to pay the bills.

    June 23, 2010 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Mesa Mick

    This political grifter will make a nice sacrificial lamb for the bat crap crazies on the right to offer up. Harry Reid is going to win re-election "going away" – Lee is "toast".

    And – cue the "Oh pity me" music – these tin foil hat wearin' yahoos are gonna blame Obama of course...

    June 23, 2010 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  20. Movinonout

    Hopefully we can get some of the mentally incapacitated dem idiots out of congress before they destroy the country with their socialistic ideas.

    June 23, 2010 10:43 am at 10:43 am |