Tea Party claims first victory in 2012
This hasn’t gotten much play yet, at least from I’ve seen, but Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) lost her bid for re-election on Tuesday to Brad Wenstrup, a doctor who was supported by the Tea Party movement in the district. John Fund has the story:
The Tea Party is alive and kicking. House Speaker John Boehner can’t help but notice that Representative Jean Schmidt, one of his fellow GOP House members from the Cincinnati area, just went down to defeat at the hands of a political neophyte. Brad Wenstrup is a physician and Iraq War veteran whose only prior political experience was in a losing race for mayor of Cincinnati.
Jean Schmidt had a conservative social and economic voting record in her seven years in Congress, winning “zero” ratings from liberal groups and an 88 percent rating from the National Taxpayers Union in 2010. But she had vulnerabilities, including votes to raise the debt ceiling and for the Wall Street bailout, support for the pro-union Davis-Bacon Act, and a record of supporting tax increases when she was in the state legislature. She was also dogged by accusations she had accepted free legal help from a Turkish-American interest group, although she was cleared of wrongdoing by the House Ethics Committee. But the real mark against her was that she was a Washington incumbent.
Wenstrup hammered Schmidt from the right, and his opposition to pork-barrel spending and support for a flat tax won him the backing of the Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of tea-party groups. But Schmidt still had an overwhelming financial advantage, outspending Wenstrup by three-to-one in the last Federal Election Commission report.
But an equalizer arrived in the form of a $241,000 expenditure by a super PAC called the Campaign for Primary Accountability, a group of tea-party donors which is dedicated to using primaries to oust complacent, longtime incumbents of both parties.
Schmidt was just the first target of Tea Party and grassroots groups in the 2012 cycle. This certainly doesn’t bode well for other fiscally statist Republicans facing tough re-election battles against more free market-minded challengers. And it shows that rumors of the Tea Party demise are overstated.