Jamie Radtke seeks to ride Tea Party wave into the Senate in 2012

As the 2012 elections season gears up, Virginia is emerging as a clear Senate pickup opportunity for Republicans. With Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s recent announcement that he will not seek reelection, former Republican Sen. George Allen has declared his intention to seek his old seat. But it won’t be an uncontested path to the nomination for Allen. Standing in his path is Tea Party-favorite Jamie Radtke.

Seen by some as a rising conservative star, Radtke has never held office before. Though that may be a disadvantage for some, for those in the Tea Party movement, it boosts their appeal. She also has a strong record as an effective political organizer, having built most of the local activism in Virginia’s Tea Party movement.

Radtke, who aspires to be like Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul or South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, seeks to present herself as Tea Party favorite and paint Allen as part of the establishment. Some influential beltway names are aiding her in shaping this narrative and throwing their support behind her, saying Allen represents the “old establishment.” Conservative strategist Richard Viguerie, the chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, told The Daily Caller Radtke is “sharp” and “knows the issues.”

“Jamie Radtke is a leader,” Viguerie said in a phone interview. “She’s young, she’s motivated to significantly reduce the size of government. I have not heard Allen talk about how he made mistakes and promises not to do it again.”

By “mistakes,” Viguerie is referring to Allen’s voting record in the Senate. He voted for No Child Left Behind and President George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription drug program. Radtke has said Allen’s voting record helped add $3.1 trillion to the national debt, including $90 billion in earmarks. “There’s a lot of reasons why I’m different than him,” she told TheDC

“The first thing is I haven’t been a politician for three decades,” she said. “I think people are really concerned about sending politicians back to D.C. who created the mess that we’re now facing.”

Another way Radtke is different from Allen is she’s likely to line up more with DeMint, Paul and Sens. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and Mike Lee, Utah Republican. Allen’s critics say he’s more likely to play ball with the Republican leadership.

Radtke is also a staunch defender of grassroots activism, and believes in the power of the Tea Party movement. “Not just in Virginia, but everywhere, there is no doubt that I believe that our salvation depends on the grassroots movement,” Radtke said. “They will either continue to be committed and passionate and determined to keep their liberty and push government out of their lives or not. And, I believe that they are.”

Radtke has faith in the Tea Party’s ability to remain influential, adding that the two-year-old movement is “getting more sophisticated” and “learning what worked and didn’t work and improving upon that.” She thinks it’s funny, though, that so many “Republicans in Name Only,” or RINOs, are trying to attach themselves to the vibrant Tea Party movement. Radtke noted that Sen. Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, has appeared at several different Tea Party events as of late, and laughed about a new Virginia group, “Tea Party Patriots for George Allen.”

“We were going to start calling them TINOs, or ‘Tea Party in Name Only,’” Radtke joked. “That’s going to be our new nickname for them.”