Opinion

Liberty Republicans grow up

Photo of Ryan Girdusky
Ryan Girdusky
Political Consultant

It’s often said that growing up involves making peace with your elders. The time spent from adolescence to adulthood is paved with the brutal realities of coming to terms with the establishment. Similar events occur for a political movement, populist uprisings must either accomplish their goals quickly, or seize power and become part of the establishment, or fade away.

The liberty movement, comparable to the tea party but with greater emphasis on a modest foreign policy, sound currency, and civil liberties is certainly making that leap from adolescent troublemaker to being a grown up. As Senator Mike Lee has said, “it has taken us some time to move from our ‘Boston moment’ to our ‘Philadelphia moment’.” In other words, from a protest movement to a party that can govern.

While Senators Rand Paul and Mike Lee have already started to make that transition as elected statesmen, several other candidates who ran and lost their first time around are making a new attempt with a more tempered tone.

Possibly the most promising of these candidates is Clint Didier, a two time Super Bowl-winning football player turned U.S. Senate candidate in 2010. He was endorsed by Congressman Ron Paul and Governor Sarah Palin and was the favorite of both the liberty movement and the tea party. Unfortunately, he was in a primary battle against a popular establishment state-senator Dino Rossi. Rossi had run for Governor twice before, coming up short by 119 votes out of more than 2.7 million cast, one of the closest elections in American history.

Didier lost in 2010, but beat the establishment candidate in several eastern counties in Washington State. He became the party’s nominee for statewide office in 2012 in an unsuccessful bid for Commissioner of Public Land.

This time around, he is running for Congress in Washington’s 4th district, currently represented by Doc Hastings, who is retiring. Didier won the congressional district in his 2012 general election. He has high name recognition and can easily draw support from the party as their former general election nominee for a statewide office as well as from the grassroots. It also helps that the 4th district is a safe Republican seat, so his fight will be in the primary.

Another former statewide candidate is Debra Medina. Mrs. Medina made headlines in 2010 as a nurse who jumped in the race for Texas Governor running on the issue of property tax reform. Her high polling from the grassroots propelled her to the debates with Governor Perry and Senator Hutchinson. After a gaffe on the Glenn Beck show her rise to the governor’s mansion was stunted, and she received a respectable 19 percent against the sitting governor and Senator.

Mrs. Medina is now in a race for Texas Comptroller. She is the only candidate in the race who has run for statewide office before and claims that she still has a connection with the 275,000+ voters who cast their ballot for her in 2010. Which gives a strong advantages to her other opponents, two of whom are in the state legislature. And she’s got a good case; Medina now has a double-digit lead on her opponents, 39 percent to 26, 24, and 11 percent respectively.

Voter turnout will be smaller than her previous run for governor, as is the case most of the time for down-ballot races. While she has not been the favorite amongst many in the establishment, support from her 2010 base could promote her into a runoff if no primary candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote.

Even though she has been lagging in fundraising and endorsements, grassroots and high name ID is Medina’s hail mary pass for a victory this cycle. Also benefiting her this election cycle: she’s been free of any gaffes or Glenn Beck interviews.