|Tea Party candidate Joe Miller unseated incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s GOP primary. (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner via AP)|
Tea Party’s Alaska victory forcing GOP agenda changes
WASHINGTON — The Tea Party movement of fed-up conservative-libertarian voters displayed its power in its biggest triumph of the election year: the toppling of Senator Lisa Murkowski in Alaska’s GOP primary. Political novice Joe Miller is the fifth Tea Party insurgent to win a GOP Senate nominating contest, an upset that few, if any, saw coming.
The political insurgents have taken hold in the Grand Old Party, unseating lawmakers, capturing nominations for open seats, and forcing Republicans to recalibrate both their campaign strategy and issues agenda. Out is talk of delivering federal dollars back home; in is talk of fiscal discipline.
Within minutes of Murkowski’s conceding late Tuesday night, Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina was among the conservatives cheering Miller.
“He pulled off the upset victory of the year because he ran on principles and because Alaskans, like all Americans, want to stop the massive spending, bailouts, and debt that are bankrupting our country,’’ said DeMint.
Taking a shot at Murkowski, if not the entire Republican establishment, he added: “Joe Miller’s victory should be a wake-up call to politicians who go to Washington to bring home the bacon. Voters are saying, ‘We’re not willing to bankrupt the country to benefit ourselves.’ ’’
Murkowski, who was seeking her second full term, was the first GOP incumbent to lose her renomination bid to a Tea Party-backed challenger in a Republican primary.
But Utah Senator Bob Bennett lost his job, too, fired at the state convention in May when Tea Party activists and other GOP voters rallied behind Mike Lee. And Tea Party favorites Rand Paul in Kentucky, Sharron Angle in Nevada, and Ken Buck in Colorado won their primaries over establishment-supported candidates in open races.
Now the country’s latest political phenomenon is turning its sights on the Sept. 14 Delaware Senate primary in hopes that its preferred candidate can vanquish a moderate hand-picked by GOP leaders in Washington, Representative Mike Castle, and win an open seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden.
The nation’s largest labor federation plans to spend more than $50 million leading up to the November elections, targeting 70 House races and 18 Senate races with television ads, phone banks, and leaflets.
In a response to the antiestablishment anger of activists of the Tea Party movement, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka called on voters to think about “economic patriots’’ and “corporate traitors.’’
“We’re looking for leaders who will call out corporations that ship our good jobs overseas, leaders who will reject unfair trade deals, leaders who will fight for a middle-class economy and put us on a path to make things in America again,’’ Trumka said at a news conference.
The AFL-CIO is also running a nonpolitical TV ad in major markets over the Labor Day weekend to boost the image of unions as organizations that help improve the lives of working people. The help cannot come soon enough for Democrats facing high voter frustration over a lingering recession and a Tea Party movement that has galvanized opposition to President Obama and other Democratic leaders.
In his comments, Trumka framed the midterm elections as a choice between working to improve the economy under Democrats and Obama or returning to the days “when Wall Street and corporations ran wild and controlled the agenda.”
The Trumbull County elections board ruled yesterday that Traficant had qualified for the ballot in Ohio’s 17th district with 2,154 valid petition signatures, 11 more than required.
Director Kelly Pallante said other county elections boards in the district would be notified to place Traficant’s name on the ballot. Traficant will face off against a former aide, four-term Democrat Tim Ryan, and Republican Jim Graham.
Traficant represented the Youngstown area for nearly two decades before he was convicted in 2002 of racketeering and bribery.