September 3rd, 2010
07:32 PM ET
12 years ago

Tea Party candidate sparks backlash in Delaware

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The Tea Party Express launched new ads supporting Delaware Republican primary Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell."]
Washington (CNN) - Fresh on the heels of Joe Miller's surprising win over Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the Alaska Republican Senate primary, the Tea Party movement is setting its sights on Delaware.

Now the Delaware Republican Party is taking heed – and taking on – the Tea Party-backed candidate in the state's Republican Senate primary, sparking a war of words between the state's establishment GOP and the Tea Party movement.

It's a race that pits conservative Tea Party favorite Christine O'Donnell against moderate Rep. Mike Castle, Delaware's former two-term governor and lone Congressman since 1993.

Both candidates' campaigns have become increasingly caustic, especially as Tea Party-backed candidates across the country have picked up win after win against GOP establishment candidates.

The Tea Party Express endorsed the conservative O'Donnell in July, and recently committed to spending at least six-figures in the state.

"We are launching an aggressive multimedia and multi-platform campaign to help propel Christine O'Donnell to victory, and we've only just begun," Amy Kremer, Chairman of the Tea Party Express, said in a statement.

The group originally planned to spend about $250,000 on the race, but is now considering expanding their presence with TV and radio ad buys in Philadelphia, said Tea Party Express political director Joe Wierzbicki.

A similar last minute media blitz by the Tea Party Express is credited with propelling Miller – a formerly little known candidate – to victory over Murkowski, the Republican Party-backed incumbent.

The group launched a series of TV and radio ads Thursday that support O'Donnell, and rail against Castle as a liberal candidate who "just keeps supporting the failed policies of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid."

It's a move that has the Castle campaign fighting back.

"Out-of-state interest groups have threatened to spend half a million dollars to fund the disgusting tactics being used by the O'Donnell campaign to make accusations," said Castle campaign manager Mike Quaranta.

Meanwhile, the Castle campaign has launched, a site devoted to aggregating negative news about O'Donnell.

Tom Ross, state committee chairman of the Delaware Republican Party, defended the negative nature of the site. "The stories might not be flattering, but they are factual. ...Sometimes it is necessary to make sure that the facts get out there," Ross said.

O'Donnell has faced criticism over her personal finance issues and leftover debt from previous, unsuccessful bids for a Delaware Senate seat. She has also been accused of misstating the results of her run against Joe Biden.

When asked to clarify her remarks in an interview Thursday with radio host Dan Gaffney of WGMD, O'Donnell seemed to grow increasingly frustrated, and ultimately blamed her statements on a grueling campaign schedule.

Ross, who is backing Castle, said that O'Donnell's history is troubling.

"This is a group and candidate that clearly seem to have a problem with facts. It is shocking that they would come in and support a candidate of Christine O'Donnell's ilk," he said.

"It is sad that the group didn't investigate the candidate that they're supporting… and surprising they would take their supporters' money that they donated and squander it in such a fashion," Ross said.

Ross also questioned whether O'Donnell is capable of pulling off an upset similar to Miller's win in Alaska.

"In Alaska, it was that Joe Miller is an Ivy League grad, a war hero, excellent standing in the community," Ross said. "Look at Christine O'Donnell. She has none of those attributes. She is career politician. She's run unsuccessfully for Senate three times."

Yet, Wierzbicki criticized Ross for dismissing O'Donnell, calling her a true conservative.

"[Ross] is everything that is wrong with the establishment of the Republican Party. He should be fired for serving to undermine a Republican candidate who stands on conservative principles. It's his job to advance all Republicans in the state of Delaware. Instead he has become a tool for those who wish to thwart the Republican Party platform and turn the GOP into a Democrat-lite outfit. We find him reprehensible and shameless," Wierzbicki said.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie of neighboring New Jersey endorsed Castle Thursday.

The winner will face Democrat Chris Coons in the race for Vice President Joe Biden's former seat.

Filed under: 2010 • Delaware • Mike Castle • Tea Party Express
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Hunatic

    The Tea Party and the GOP clashing because of diverging ideologies? Who could have seen that coming?

    September 3, 2010 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  2. DENNA

    I smell blood in the water. Yes! Conservatives might be willing to pick these Tea Party nuts, but how are they going to get the rest of us to fall in line? Glen Beck's little "love fest" was a clear indication that the rest of America will be left out if these people get control. Moderate whites, moderate conservatives and everyone else will fall under the Tea Party regime if we are not careful.

    September 3, 2010 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  3. Lucas Breen

    These old line Republicans have a very strange sense of entitlement. Go Christine!

    September 3, 2010 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  4. John

    The tea party nothing but racist people,and nobody should listen too them or vote for anybody they back. They are just as bad as Glenn Beck and Saran Palin, All they do is lie about everything.

    September 3, 2010 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  5. Liz the First

    Let's hope the 'right' is divided and conquered come November. it couldn't happen to a more rotten bunch. just the thought of these nutjobs gaining control of the House or Senate should drive every single Democrat to the polls. we can't let the country fall back into the hands of the people who almost destroyed it. they will finish the job.

    September 3, 2010 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  6. Fred

    Falling from grace

    September 3, 2010 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  7. lsboogy

    Another brilliant showing by the tea party – I used to think the far left democrats were nuts and liars, the tea party is just outdoing them

    September 3, 2010 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  8. BJ

    Alas, you like the Tea Party! They haven't won that many elections, Please get a grip CNN. Your bias is showing. Oh, I forgot Palin is your girl and she runs with the Tea Party.

    September 3, 2010 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  9. NC Ex-Pub

    I am telling you Dems; you had better wake up and get involved. You are going to sit on your butts and let these wing-nuts take us down a road from whcih we may not recover. I have not seen such extreme fringe groups since the fifties!.
    If you want to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear .... George Wallace (Arizona's Jan Brewer or Perry secessionist of Texas)... Bull Connor (a carbon copy is sheriff of the Pheonix area)... Lester Maddox (he believed as does Rand Paul that the government shouldn't be allowed to tell a private business whom they could serve)... McCarthyism's Communists everywhere (just listen once in a while to Beck)... just quietly sit there and it is going to happen!

    September 4, 2010 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  10. Aaron

    I'm all for getting incumbents out, regardless of party, but these extremists that are winning primaries are downright scary. I was reading about the fall of the Weimar Republic when the extreme rightwingers (the Nazis) consistently did not follow the wishes of the citizens that it represented and the extreme polarization of politics. The similiarities of German politics in the late 1920s and early 1930s with current American politics is unnerving.

    September 4, 2010 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  11. Bertina

    Maybe this tea party should be checked out...they may be using some of the republican tactics that were used in Florida in 2000. Get a judge to pick the winners. Who knows what goes on with this bunch. Michelle Bachmann is using an actor to tell her lies for her.

    September 4, 2010 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  12. Texas Doc

    Gotta love it. The Tea Party is the kiss of death for the GOP. Their candidates will show once and for all how insane the Republicans are and how unfit they are to govern. Face it, The GOP owns the monster they helped create and now its payback time. See you in November!

    September 4, 2010 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  13. TCM

    the Glenn Beck piece is hilarious....caught in a lie...Obama had lied nonstop from the time he's stepped foot in washington as a senator...where's the articles about all of that, CNN? Glenn Beck has no authority over any aspect of this country, the same as Sarah Palin, yet you ignore the destructive tendencies of the liberal left....pathetic news reporting

    September 4, 2010 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  14. Mark

    Carefull, don't stand to close. They eat their wounded.

    September 4, 2010 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  15. Bill from GA

    Can this be the Republican party's worst nightmare, the tea party?

    I heard it from an unconfirmed source (don't tell sarah, please) named deep thrust, that it was a plan cocked up by joe biden and his sinister, femme-fatelle wife, DR JILL, that would lead to the total destruction of the Republican party.

    OK, it's late at night, and I apologize to the good Dr. Jill and her man, Joe.

    September 4, 2010 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
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