- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, the Virginia Republican who has assumed leadership of his party’s more liberal members of Congress, said yesterday that conservative groups such as the Club for Growth are hurting the party by refusing to help candidates who don’t pass their “litmus test” and by attacking some incumbent Republicans.

Mr. Davis said he and his group, the Republican Main Street Partnership, “don’t go after Republican incumbents. Ultimately, that’s not how you build a governing majority.”

The partnership consists of 58 members of the House and Senate, plus four governors.

Mr. Davis and Executive Director Sarah Chamberlain Resnick said the Club for Growth has complicated the re-election campaigns of Rep. Joe Schwarz of Michigan and Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island by attacking the incumbents and supporting their primary challengers.

Mr. Davis said his partnership, unlike the Club for Growth, wants to maintain the Republican majority by being more inclusive. “We recognize we’re a big tent,” he said.

Mr. Davis said his members have diverse opinions on social issues, and he outlined an agenda that includes tax cuts, deficit reduction, retirement benefits, health care, increased math and science education, energy independence that protects the environment, and national security through diplomacy.

Mrs. Resnick said the partnership rejects the “moderate” label because it is associated with abortion and homosexual rights — issues outside the group’s focus. Instead, members hope to “rebrand” themselves as traditional Ronald Reagan Republicans, fiscal conservatives, progressives and coalition builders, she said.

She said Club for Growth purports to focus on fiscal issues but is actually “a social organization” that does not endorse pro-choice candidates.

Club for Growth President Patrick J. Toomey defended his organization, saying the reference to a litmus test “sounds like a political straw man.”

He said the club sees no reason to endorse a candidate who doesn’t believe in lower taxes, smaller government and free-market ideas, just because he might “have an ‘R’ next to their name.”

“What we focus on are the candidates most dedicated to economic freedom,” he said.

He rebutted the charge that his group weighs a candidate’s stance on social issues such as abortion. “This is a dishonest charge [the partnership has] made for a long time because they’re embarrassed they support liberals,” he said.

He said his group embraces socially conservative members as well as libertarians.

Mr. Davis said the House Republican leaders are effective at shepherding a diverse caucus, but complained about the social issues they are bringing up for votes. “I don’t think they’re helpful,” he said, noting that the House will vote on a federal marriage amendment, even though the Senate has rejected it. “Everybody understands before we start that this isn’t going anywhere,” he said.

He endorsed an expansion of federally funded embryonic stem-cell research. That legislation passed the House last year and is headed for Senate approval. President Bush has threatened to veto the measure, but Mr. Davis said “polling on it is pretty strong.”

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