For an unknown country lawyer running for Congress in Tennessee, Van Irion sure knows how to grab headlines. The Tea Party backed Republican first made news by carrying a pitchfork with him to campaign events, a symbol of his commitment to cleaning the manure out of Washington and a gimmick that made the Glenn Beck look-a-like stand out in a crowded field of candidates.
Now he’s suing President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the constitutionality of the recently passed health-care law, and nearly 30,000 people have signed up to be part of the class-action lawsuit.
His knack for creative campaign techniques has helped the underdog get his message out — and bring in much needed dollars from across the country for the campaign coffers.
“We thought we were doing well. Now we know we’re doing well,” Irion said during an interview at The Daily Caller offices in Washington D.C., fresh off a trip to New York to tape an interview with Judge Andrew Napolitano at Fox News.
Neither Irion nor his campaign manager, Anthony Shreeve, had ever been to New York before their campaign road trip. But in the name of fiscal conservatism, they made the trip from eastern Tennessee to the Big Apple by car, with Chattanooga Tea Party activist Gregg Juster at the wheel. “We’re really excited to back someone like us,” Juster said.
But Irion has his work cut out for him before he comes close to walking through the doors of the Capitol as the congressman from Tennessee’s 3rd district with pitchfork in hand. He’s one of eight candidates running in the GOP primary, and he’s certainly not the favorite of the establishment. But he said his lawsuit against ObamaCare has solidified his support among Tea Partiers, and he’s hoping he will be able to edge the other Republicans in the race who will split the establishment vote among themselves.
Even Irion admits the “People’s lawsuit,” as he calls it, will likely be dismissed by the Hamilton County judge, but through appeals, he hopes to argue it before the US Supreme court. “This is something I’m going to be working on for the next several years, whether I win or not, for free. And it’s something I believe in,” said Irion, wearing a small lapel pin resembling his pitchfork campaign prop.
Unlike other challenges to the law specifically over the mandate requiring individuals to purchase insurance, Irion’s case claims the government legislating health-care at all to be unconstitutional. He’s suit alleges Obama, Pelosi and Reid, in their official capacities, abused their authority by exceeding the authority granted to them. They also are in violation of the 10th amendment, Irion said, and of breaching their oath of office by not protecting and defending the Constitution.
By Tuesday afternoon, 27,579 people have signed their names to the lawsuit, according to ObamaCareClassAction.com, a site set up by the campaign.
UPDATE: Mark West, President of the Chattanooga Tea Party, emailed The Daily Caller to argue that Irion is not the only candidate supported by Tea Party groups. Other Republican candidates — including Robin Smith, Tim Gobble and Chuck Fleischmann — count the conservative, grassroots activists as supporters, West said.