- The Washington Times - Monday, March 28, 2011

George Allen is beckoning to newly energized anti-establishment, fiscal-hawk activists with one hand while gripping a beefy political resume in the other as he embarks on a campaign to recapture the Republican nod for the U.S. Senate seat he lost five years ago.

It could prove a tricky balancing act for Mr. Allen, who goes head-to-head against candidates energized by the tea party, which ended the careers of some establishment Republicans last fall.

So in trying to distance himself from the notion that he is a career politician after two years in the U.S. House of Representatives and six years in the Senate - separated by a stint as Virginia governor - he is adopting a familiar campaign line: Us against Washington.

“We have a government that seems to be against us,” he said in a recent interview at his Old Town Alexandria office. “Nobody’s cheering for anything coming out of Washington.”

Two months into his campaign, with at least 14 months more to go, Mr. Allen is moving full speed ahead with a ready supply of criticism aimed at federal deficit spending, continued dependency on foreign oil and a stream of short-term spending plans to keep government running because Congress can’t agree on raising the debt ceiling or cutting spending.

Mr. Allen has experience with the federal debt ceiling, having voted four times to raise it to support spending plans of President George W. Bush. Other Bush-era spending he supported included the No Child Left Behind education initiative and the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.

That support has provided ammunition to fellow GOP contender and tea party favorite Jamie Radtke, who is criticizing Mr. Allen for backing budgets that raised the federal debt by $3.2 trillion during his Senate term - a claim ruled “true” by the fact-checking website PolitiFact.

When asked how he plans to win over Radtke supporters, Mr. Allen rattled off a list of conservative credentials: an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, a 93 percent rating from the American Conservative Union and accolades from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He ended with a trademark Allen colloquialism: “a 100 percent rating on issues that matter to a lot of folks.”

Conservative competition

Mr. Allen doesn’t directly align himself with the tea party, but he does not hesitate to highlight similarities. He cares about the Constitution. He likes to quote Thomas Jefferson and Ronald Reagan. He, too, doesn’t like what’s going on in Washington, he said.

The tea partyers represent a positive movement that has added a lot of energy to the debate, Mr. Allen said. But he spreads his net wide by using the term “tea party” broadly, applying it also to much older anti-government spending groups such as the Taxpayers Alliance and Sons of Liberty groups.

His message: It’s all of these folks and him versus the Washington machine.

“Why a lot of people are riled up - and you see it with tea parties, the various rallies, the Americans for Prosperity bus tour - that people feel Washington isn’t listening to them,” Mr. Allen said.

Besides Ms. Radtke, Hampton Roads lawyer David McCormick, a novice to politics and virtually unknown throughout the state, is the only other candidate so far.

Other prospective candidates include conservative firebrand Delegate Robert G. Marshall of Prince William County as well as Corey A. Stewart, chairman of the Prince William County Board of County Supervisors. Tim Donner, founder of Horizon Television in Great Falls, also is weighing a bid.

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