- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Looking to rebound from a heartbreaking loss in Mississippi’s Senate primary, national tea party groups say they still hope to score a few victories to bolster their ranks as they prepare for policy battles on Capitol Hill.

The chances of unseating a sitting Republican senator in a primary are growing more remote, but tea party groups said there are still some Senate challengers, as well as House candidates, who analysts said might be the movement’s best bet for this election cycle.

“The tea party didn’t do as well as they would have liked in some of the high-profile Senate primaries this year for a variety of reasons,” said Charlie Gerow, who serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union. “But there is still a significant number of opportunities for them to win either House races that are open seats, or challenge races, and send some fresh troops to the battle in Washington, D.C. for limited government, fiscal responsibility and [a] more distinctly conservative approach to governing.”

While tea party groups aren’t yet ready to concede the Mississippi primary race to incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran, they are looking elsewhere.

Taylor Budowich, executive director of Tea Party Express, said his group is turning its focus to the Senate race in Kansas, where Milton Wolf, a radiologist and conservative commentator whom they endorsed earlier this year, is trying to knock off three-term GOP Sen. Pat Roberts. Despite a spirited challenge, Mr. Roberts is seen as a clear favorite.

“We see an opportunity there to elect a strong tea party conservative,” Mr. Budowich said.

SEE ALSO: Poll: Colorado governor’s race locked in dead heat

He also said that his group also is keeping tabs on state Rep. Joe Carr’s bid to unseat Sen. Lamar Alexander in Tennessee, as well as the Senate race in Louisiana, where tea party groups have endorsed retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness’ dark-horse bid in a field that includes incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, the party establishment favorite.

Adam Brandon, executive director of FreedomWorks, said his group is also keeping an eye on the upcoming Senate races in Tennessee and Kansas.

And it is also rallying the troops ahead of the House races in Georgia, where they are supporting Bob Johnson’s campaign in the 1st Congressional District and Barry Loudermilk’s campaign in the 11th Congressional District.

They are also backing former Washington Redskins player Clint Didier in the GOP nomination race for the seat in Washington’s 4th Congressional District, which is now held by retiring Republican Rep. Doc Hastings.

“There is a lot of things to get excited about to get us across the finish line,” Mr. Brandon said.

Unlike recent election cycles, national tea party groups so far have failed this primary season to take out an incumbent lawmaker in a Senate race.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, meanwhile, has served as one of the movement’s biggest foes, helping veteran lawmakers and the picks of the GOP establishment thwart tea party-backed candidates.

Every candidate the Chamber has invested in — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, North Carolina state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Mr. Cochran — has won.

It’s a major change from 2010 and 2012, when tea party-backed candidates beat establishment favorites in several races.

Still, some are holding out hope that state Sen. Chris McDaniel will successfully challenge the outcome of the June 24 runoff race in which the six-term Mr. Cochran won by 6,700, or less than 2 percent, of the votes cast.

Mr. McDaniel has yet to concede, saying he wants to make sure the “sanctity” of the vote is upheld after Mr. Cochran made a late-innings push to court black voters ahead of the runoff race.

Meanwhile, True the Vote, a conservative group, has filed a federal lawsuit over potential “double-voting” in the race, and FreedomWorks has called on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of vote buying by the Cochran campaign.

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