- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 19, 2010

Christine O’Donnell, the Republican whose surprise victory in Delaware’s U.S. Senate primary last week put the fear of the “tea party” into the Republican establishment, says she would not vote with her party’s leadership as a senator if it meant putting politics over principles.

“I would have to read any bill before making a decision, but if it contained earmarks, I definitely would not vote for it,” Miss O’Donnell told The Washington Times on Sunday.

Asked whether she would refuse to go along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, if he wanted a yes vote on a spending bill or any other legislation that violated conservative ideals, she said, “That’s a hypothetical. I would have to look at the bill first, but I will always vote my principles.”

The tea party-backed Miss O’Donnell, 41, became a national political sensation after with her Republican primary win over veteran Rep. Michael N. Castle on Tuesday, saying that since then she has raised $1.7 million via the Internet for her general election campaign. She also wowed some 2,000 evangelical Christians at the Family Research Council’s annual Values Voter Summit at the end of the week.

But she has taken a string of hits from both parties and the news media.

Stories have been circulated about her not paying student loans or creditors of a business she established. Democrats launched an attack ad Sunday, saying she would “fit right in, in Washington” because she “spends money she doesn’t have,” hired “employees she didn’t pay, stiffed businesses [and] didn’t pay her taxes.”

And then there are the witch accusations.

“Aren’t you going to ask me about witchcraft?” she said with mock impatience early in the interview with The Times.

“It’s not true what Bill Maher is saying - I am not a witch,” she said. “If it was true, I would have turned Karl Rove into a supporter,” she said with a laugh.

Mr. Rove, George W. Bush’s chief strategist while president, urged Delaware Republicans to vote for Mr. Castle in the GOP Senate primary rather than for Miss O’Donnell, who he suggested is missing a few of her faculties and couldn’t possibly win a general election.

A video of Miss O’Donnell’s appearance with talk-show host Mr. Maher nearly 10 years ago when she was a regular guest on his show “Politically Incorrect” shows her bantering that her first date in high school was with a male witch.

Asked about that, she told The Times, “True, that was my first date with a witch.” Come on, I was in high school,” she asserted, again with hearty laugh.

In the clip, Miss O’Donnell says, “I dabbled into witchcraft - I never joined a coven. … I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do.

“One of my first dates was with a witch, was on a satanic altar, and I didn’t know it. I mean, there’s little blood there and stuff like that,” Miss O’Donnell says in the clip with Mr. Maher. “We went to a movie and then had a midnight picnic on a satanic altar.”

During the primary campaign, much was made of her disapproval of masturbation during her work with the Savior’s Alliance for Lifting the Truth, a group she founded in the 1990s that promoted Christian values to college students. At the time, she called masturbation “selfish” and missing the point of love between a man and a woman that God intended.

On Sunday, she told The Times that she expressed those views “many years ago, when I was on television and excited by the opportunity to express a message of purity I had just discovered in my newfound faith.”

All the national attention from her victory Tuesday put her in high demand for the Sunday political talk shows, and she was scheduled to appear on several over the weekend. She canceled, however, saying she is campaigning for the U.S. Senate in Delaware, not Washington, D.C.

“Delaware voters are my first priority,” she said, adding that she had received invitations from churches in her state to attend Sunday services. “These are the folks whose energy and votes put me over the finish line, and I wanted to be in their pews today.”

Diana Bannister, a conservative publicist who is handling press for the O’Donnell campaign, told The Times, “I jumped the gun in saying yes to these invitations from Sunday talk shows. She’s right in deciding Delaware is where she should be.”

A Farleigh-Dickinson University graduate, Miss O’Donnell once worked for the Republican National Committee and later for Concerned Women for America. The Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank in California, awarded her a Lincoln fellowship in 2002.

Asked when she came to the political views she is expressing as a candidate, she said, “I became a conservative in college and that led me to my religious beliefs.

“Usually it’s the other way around,” she said. “People are Christians first and that leads them to become politically active.”

Miss O’Donnell is the latest tea party candidate to upset an establishment candidate in a Republican primary, which Democrats have seized on to sway independents to their side.

“I think it’s become very clear now that the Republican Party, that the control of the Republican Party, is in tea party candidates, who do not speak for independent or moderate voters at all,” Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said on “CNN Sunday.”

“And we’re going to make that contrast very sharp, and we have a feeling that we’re going to do very, very well in closing that gap with independent voters between now and the 2nd of November, because independents do not like what they see from this ascendant tea party and the Republican Party.”

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