The New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition said “fake” national branches of the grassroots movement should stay out of the U.S. Senate race in the Granite State.
Responding to the news that the Tea Party Express is open to endorsing former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown or one of his GOP rivals in the New Hampshire Senate primary, the NHTPC said that “the legitimate grassroots movement does not endorse or raise money for candidates, has not designated any national representation, is not a PAC and has no offices in D.C.”
“NHTPC objects to the potential endorsement of a candidate in our primary for U.S. Senate by ‘Tea Party Express’ PAC or any other outsiders,” Jane Aitken, the group’s spokeswoman said in an email blast. “The Tea Party Express was formed by GOP lawyers and consultants in 2009 and has been collecting millions of dollars under the pretense of being a grassroots organization founded by ‘the people.’ “
Ms. Aitken said, in a related blog post, that the group is a front for members of the GOP establishment.
In response, Taylor Budowich, executive director of Tea Party Express, said leaders of his group met with all three candidates in the GOP primary race and said it is still in the realm of possibility that his group could endorse someone before voters head to the polls on Sept. 9.
“We haven’t decided on getting in the race, and we are meeting with all the candidates and local tea party leaders from across the state before we do,” Mr. Budowich said.
Mr. Budowich also rejected the idea that his group is aligned with the GOP establishment, pointing out that his group has helped elect Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of Utah, as well as Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie in Kentucky.
“Across the board, every singe grassroots tea party candidate that we have in Washington, D.C., right now, we have been involved in those races and helping elect them,” he said. “We have played a pivotal role in that. That is what is important to us. We are about electing conservatives and that is the sole purpose of Tea Party Express, and we are going to continue to do that.”
The Washington Times reported last week that Tea Party Express was mulling over whether to get involved in the Senate race in the Granite State.
Mr. Budowich said at the time that Sal Russo, co-founder of the group, and Andrew Surabian, the group’s political director, met with the candidates in the GOP primary race for the Senate and is mulling whether to get involved in the race.
Tea Party Express endorsed Mr. Brown during his successful 2010 campaign for the Senate in Massachusetts following the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Since then, he lost his seat to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and has fallen out of favor with some tea partyers.
Ms. Aitken, meanwhile, has long held that Tea Party Express and other “national” tea party groups are misleading people into thinking they represent the grassroots movement.
On the group’s website, she is now calling on members to contact Mr. Russo and “tell him that when it comes to thinking of endorsing Scott Brown, he should be up front with people and admit that his group, The Tea Party Express, is an ESTABLISHMENT GOP PAC working for ESTABLISHMENT GOP CANDIDATES.”
“In fact, from what we are seeing, the grassroots here in N.H. are actively working to DEFEAT Scott Brown,” Ms. Aitken said.