Tea Party Patriots swings at rival group for losses in Nevada, Delaware

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Leaders of the Tea Party Patriots organization declared Tuesday’s election results “a victory for liberty,” but blamed a rival Tea Party organization for Senate losses in Nevada and Delaware, saying the group shouldn’t have intervened in those elections by making endorsements in the primary.

The two organizations have a history of feuding over how involved national groups should be in elections. The Tea Party Patriots organization does not endorse candidates, while the California-based Tea Party Express endorsed numerous candidates this cycle.

Asked if Tea Party voters should be more pragmatic in nominating more electable candidates during future elections, Jenny Beth Martin, a national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, took a swipe at the rival Tea Party Express.

“One thing that we’ve seen across the country is that in places where the Tea Party people were allowed to nominate their own nominees and were not influenced by top-down political organizations, such as Tea Party Express, the Republicans did win,” Martin said at a Wednesday morning news conference in Washington, D.C.

Mark Meckler, another national coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, claimed “the grassroots were not allowed to speak” in races where the Tea Party Express made endorsements. “An outside, top-down organization came in and chose a candidate for them,” he said.

The Tea Party Express played a large role — and was widely lauded by activists — in nominating conservatives in Republican primaries this year, especially Sharron Angle in Nevada, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Joe Miller in Alaska. Both Angle and O’Donnell lost Tuesday night, and Miller is trailing as the votes are still being counted.

A common argument made about all three candidates was that — while beloved by the Tea Party wing — they made safe Republican seats more competitive than they should have been.

But Levi Russell, a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, strongly dismissed any blame for his organization during a interview with The Daily Caller on election night. He said the group is proud of their endorsements and touted a long list of various other candidates they supported who went on to win Tuesday.

“We’re smiling tonight,” Russell said by phone. He did, however, admit that “losing Nevada is disappointing because it is such an important race…but when we take a step back and look at what actually happened, there’s no question we completely changed the course of Washington politics.”

The Tea Party Express, known for their cross-country bus tours, was also an early backer of Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown’s campaign early this year.

As for criticism this election cycle, Russell leveled some blame on establishment Republicans who he said did not completely get behind candidates like Angle, O’Donnell and Miller.

“There were a lot of people within the Republican establishment who outright went ahead and bashed the Republican nominee…So any of the blame game that starts right now is, I think, a major mistake,” he said.

A harsh critique by the Tea Party Patriots of the Tea Party Express is hardly surprising. Both groups have attacked each other in the past, oftentimes in very personal ways.

At the Wednesday morning press conference, the Tea Party Patriots also spoke of plans for making their mark on the new Congress. The organization plans to host a freshman orientation seminar for incoming members, inviting new members from both parties. They also plan to operate a job bank for people who share Tea Party values who would be interested in working as staff on Capitol Hill.