- The Washington Times - Friday, December 11, 2009

Been there

Republican Sue Lowden wants everyone to know she’s not afraid of what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might do to knock her out of the running for his Senate seat in the 2010 election.

Mrs. Lowden, a former chairman of the Nevada Republican Party and longtime businesswoman, told conservative-leaning journalists at a roundtable breakfast meeting that she expects the “full strength and power of the AFL-CIO behind him … and I might even see it in the primary.”

“He’s not a charming guy,” she said of Mr. Reid, whom she once supported with political donations because, she said, she thought he was a “Reagan, blue-dog Democrat … a conservative, pro-life Mormon.”

“He’s a bully,” Mrs. Lowden said of the majority leader today. “And if he doesn’t get his way, there’s ramifications” for Nevada businesses owners who, according to her, are well-aware of the fact that Mr. Reid’s son, Rory, is a county commissioner and fear retaliation from him if they don’t play nice with his father.

But, Mrs. Lowden has some experience running against a Democrat with majority-leader status.

She beat Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Jack Vergiels in 1992, and assured writers repeatedly “I’m not afraid” of the scrutiny that will come in running against the U.S. Senate’s most powerful Democrat.

“The unions protested my house and laid down in the lobby of my businesses,” Mrs. Lowden recalled, chuckling softly about how children once had to walk over protesters to get to hockey practice at an ice-skating rink she owned.

To win the Republican primary, Mrs. Lowden will need to beat out a bevy of other Republican candidates; primarily, Republican lawyer Danny Tarkanian, a former basketball standout at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and son of legendary coach Jerry Tarkanian.

But she declined to go negative in the roundtable meeting, despite repeated attempts by questioners.

“I more or less generally support what they say,” she said of the others vying for the Republican nomination.

Rather, she emphasized the work she did building up the Republican infrastructure as party chairman in her state and her defeat of Mr. Vergiels. “I ran in a Democratic district and defeated a Democrat and made a difference in the Senate,” she said.

Validated

A majority of Republican voters in South Carolina say the Republican Party should be more like conservative hard-liner Sen. Jim DeMint than the more moderate Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Rasmussen conducted a poll to find out which South Carolina Republican senator party members in the state prefer, and only 32 percent said the party should be more like Mr. Graham. Fifty-one percent favored Mr. DeMint’s approach, and 18 percent said they were not sure which one is the best role model.

There was another piece of good news for Mr. DeMint hidden in the Rasmussen cross-tabs.

Among South Carolinians who did not identify themselves as “Republican” or “Democrat,” 44 percent were “very favorable” towards Mr. DeMint, 17 percent were “somewhat favorable,” 19 percent were “somewhat unfavorable,” and 17 percent were “very unfavorable.” Only 3 percent said they were “unsure.”

This means 61 percent of swing voters are favorable to Mr. DeMint, versus 36 percent unfavorable - an accomplishment for a leader closely tied to the swelling “tea party” movement.

This is affirming for Mr. DeMint, who is often unwelcome in his own party for his stiff opposition to big-spending government programs, although it’s made him a hero to the “tea partiers” who have been rallying around the nation to protest the Obama administration’s agenda.

“This confirms what folks across the country have been saying all year: They want principled leaders who will fight for them, not big government,” said DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton. “Folks of all political stripes in South Carolina know that Senator DeMint is fighting for their values to stop an out-of-control Washington and enact some commonsense solutions that expand freedom and choice.”

Another move

Sen. Jim DeMint stuck his neck out again Thursday by holding a press conference to endorse Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams to fill Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat next year when she resigns to run for governor.

Former Texas Gov. George W. Bush appointed Mr. Williams to the railroad commission in 1998 and Mr. Williams won the three following elections to keep his position. He’s also the first black man to hold an executive statewide elected post in the Lone Star State.

“Michael Williams is the Democrat Party’s worst nightmare,” Mr. DeMint said in his endorsement. “He’s a principled, outspoken conservative who will fight to stop the massive spending, bailouts and takeovers that have destroyed millions of jobs and piled a mountain of debt on our children and grandchildren.”

This is a bold move, as senatorial endorsements are traditionally done through the National Republican Senatorial Committee, whose chairman is Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

Mr. DeMint, who has his own Senate Conservatives Fund, which raises money for conservative candidates, has endorsed three other candidates under the SCF banner.

Mr. DeMint first endorsed Republican Pat Toomey over Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s 2010 Senate race. (Mr. Specter, who defeated Mr. Toomey in the 2004 Republican primary and is up for re-election next year, switched parties and became a Democrat in April.)

In another 2010 race, Mr. DeMint has boosted former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio over National Republican Senatorial Committee-endorsed Gov. Charlie Crist for the 2010 Senate race. He’s also favoring state California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore over former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in that state’s 2010 Senate primary race.

c Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter @washingtontimes.com.

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