Tea Party activists focused on November elections — not rallies

With Congress poised to pass another spending bill this week, there’s plenty for Tea Party activists to protest. But for activists from 14 states gathered here at the FreedomWorks Tea Party summit in Washington, it’s the upcoming elections — and not necessarily the next rally they can organize on the National Mall — that’s on their mind.

“I think what you’re going to see is some surprising and powerful results on November 2,” said Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, during a pen and pad session with reporters Monday, after saying helping local activists win targeted elections is the group’s top priority.

The group on Monday released their most updated list of “Champions of Freedom,” or candidates their political action committee is supporting. For the Senate, they are backing nine candidates:

—    Ken Buck in Colorado
—    Marco Rubio in Florida
—    Rand Paul in Kentucky
—    Sharron Angle in Nevada
—    David Malpass in New York
—    Pat Toomey in Pennslyvania
—    Mike Lee in Utah
—    Dino Rossi in Washington State
—    Ron Johnson in Wisconsin

On Tuesday, primary contests are being held in Colorado, Connecticut and Minnesota. A run-off in Georgia is also set for tomorrow. Rob Jordan, FreedomWorks PAC Managing Director, said the group is focusing most on the Colorado Senate race, where they are actively supporting Buck over GOP primary challenger Jane Norton.

“We’re getting involved in that race specifically because we feel like Ken Buck is the kind of candidate who will stand strong against pressure, even within his own party,” Jordan said. “Whereas Jane Norton — we saw her buckle in that similar situation when she supported [Referendum] C as the lieutenant governor, which was in effect the largest tax hike in Colorado’s history.”

He compared the PAC’s involvement in the Colorado race to their campaigning for Republican Mike Lee in Utah, who went on to knock Sen. Bob Bennett off the ballot, as well as defeat primary challenger Tim Bridgewater.

As for tomorrow’s closely watched Senate race in Connecticut, Jordan said FreedomWorks PAC has not made an endorsement yet — although one could come after the election — because none of the candidates particularly stand out. “We survey the candidates pretty well, and none of them really leapt to that level where we felt we needed to jump in and show that kind of leadership.”

Kibbe, who runs the day to day operation of the organization chaired by former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey, downplayed recent rifts among Tea Party activists. In recent weeks, there’s been bad blood among some leaders, especially in the wake of the NAACP’s resolution that called for the Tea Party to condemn what it saw as racist elements in the movement, and as result of disagreements over whom to support in primary elections.

“There’s been a lot of talk in some wings of the press about the loss of energy in the Tea Party movement and some of the squabbling going on. I would suggest that these are not problems, but these are an indication of growing pains,” Kibbe said.

He added: “We come together on certain things, but we respect each other’s freedom to drive our own agendas…We can argue about primary candidates and have a spirited conversation, but still focus at the end of the day on getting results done.”

Email Alex Pappas and follow him on Twitter