Candidate endorsed by FreedomWorks gave money to, voted for Democrats

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The influential tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks endorsed Georgia congressional candidate Wright McLeod last month, saying he “is the clear choice for voters who support free markets, fiscal responsibility and constitutionally limited government.”

But it turns out that McLeod — running in a contested Republican primary — has a history of voting for, and giving money to, Democrats.

According to the Savannah Morning News, McLeod, who is running as a Republican, has voted in five Democratic primaries since 1998. That even includes 2008, when his campaign says he voted for former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson over Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The newspaper also reported that McLeod gave $7,100 to Rob Teilhet, a Democrat who ran for attorney general in 2010. His wife gave the candidate $3,600.

FreedomWorks, a Washington D.C.-based group led by former House GOP leader Dick Armey, has been a big player in GOP primaries. They endorsed McLeod on May 17.

He is running for the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic Rep. John Barrow for Georgia’s 12th District.

On Wednesday, FreedomWorks spokeswoman Jackie Bodnar told The Daily Caller that the group still stands with McLeod despite these revelations.

“FreedomWorks PAC is a non-partisan organization, so we look at policy when we are making our endorsements, not just political party,” she told TheDC. “We believe that Wright is the strongest fiscal conservative in the race and he has pledged to advance sound economic policy and a constitutionally limited government, and we will continue to support him in this effort.”

At the time of the endorsement, FreedomWorks PAC Executive Director Max Pappas said, “We need more people like Wright who understand the Constitution, will be honest about the true state of the economy and work to rein in the spending.”

Holly Croft, a spokeswoman for McLeod, told the Savannah Morning News that the candidate voted in the Democratic primaries because, “In order to have a say in taxes, local schools and public safety, one had to choose the lesser of the evils on the Democratic ballot during the July primary.”

Asked about his vote in the 2008 Democratic primary, Croft told the newspaper that, “Wright had a sinking suspicion … that Barack Obama would set this country in the wrong direction. … Therefore, he chose the lesser liberal, Bill Richardson.”

“Wright,” she added, “voted against Barack Obama twice, and he’ll do so again this November.”

But Erick Erickson, a Georgia resident who is the influential editor of RedState, is skeptical that McLeod actually voted for Richardson. He suggested in a blog post on Tuesday that McLeod may have actually cast a vote for Clinton or Obama.

Some have pointed out that Richardson had already dropped out of the Democratic primary by the time Georgia went to the polls.

“The problem is that, based on where his precinct was in 2008, Bill Richardson got no votes there,” Erickson wrote in a blog post on RedState.

“He seems to want to run as a tea party candidate,” Erikson said, “but his record is anything but tea party.”

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