For some months suspicions have been high that Democratic operatives and their allies have been trying to split the Tea Party vote in order to increase their chances of holding on to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The strategy, as described to me by one source knowledgeable about the process, is to find a candidate who is willing to run as a so-called Tea Partyer in a race where their presence could split the anti-incumbent vote to keep a tax and spend Democrat in office for two more years. One candidate who appears to have been a victim of these shenanigans, Republican John Runyan, running in New Jersey’s Third Congressional District, says he’s had enough.
Runyan told me late Wednesday that he would shortly go live with a Web page, “Stop the Fake Tea Party” which could be found on his Runyan for Congress congressional campaign Web site.
“My opponent, career politician John Adler and his campaign,” Runyan says, “have been caught red-handed planting a fake Tea Party candidate in my race to defraud and disenfranchise voters. Newspapers across the district have criticized Adler for his lies and sleazy campaign, and the state's largest radio station called Adler's Tea Party plant scheme the dirtiest political trick they had ever seen.”
He adds: “I have asked Congressman Adler multiple times to answer for this despicable behavior and come clean, but he consistently dodges the question.” Runyan tells me that he feels he has been backed into a corner and forced to launch a Web site that exposes the truth about what is going on.
According to published reports, Steve Ayscue, a paid consultant to the Camden County, N.J., Democratic Committee, recruited volunteers to gather the signatures necessary to qualify Peter DeStefano onto the ballot representing the “NJ Tea Party” in the critical and highly competitive Third Congressional District.
The Runyan campaign, in what may be a template for others in the same boat, plans to augment the Web site with a TV ad “that is currently running, and continue to promote our message using social media sites and targeted Web ads,” Runyan says. “The desperate tactics employed by my opponent are deplorable and speak to how desperate some career politicians are to hold on to power.”
Under this scenario, the expenses for these campaigns, as well as the effort put forward by those who qualify these candidates for the ballot, appear to be actually borne by folks who really just want to keep as many Obama Democrats in office as they can. They have no real interest in seeing Tea Party types actually win; they just want them to take votes away from the one who have a legitimate chance at victory. Runyan may not be the only victim of this creativity.
• In Pennsylvania, in a meeting with the Delaware County Daily Times editorial board, Seventh Congressional District Democratic nominee Bryan Lentz admitted to helping Jim Schneller get on the ballot. His presence will presumably take votes away from his main GOP opponent, former prosecutor Pat Meehan in another highly competitive congressional seat.
• In Michigan the Detroit Free Press reported that the Michigan “Tea Party” that tried to run candidates in key races had numerous connections to Democratic Party officials and operatives, including the Oakland County Democrats’ operations director notarizing 12 out of 23 candidate affidavits. In part because of this the so-called Michigan Tea Party was denied access to the ballot on a bi-partisan 5 to 2 vote of the Michigan State Supreme Court.
• In Florida one candidate running under the banner of the “Florida Tea Party” has worked as a paid consultant to Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, who is one of the national tea party movements’ number one targets for defeat this November. In several other districts it is rumored that other so-called Florida Tea Party candidates are running in open congressional seats where voter confusion could split the vote just enough to allow Democrats to eke out pluralities in what are considered reliably Republican territory – like the seat being vacated by GOP Rep. Adam Putnam, a former member of the U.S. House leadership who is now running for Florida State Commission of Agriculture?
These are neat tricks, somewhat underhanded and the kind that always provoke howls of outrage anytime a member of the GOP gets caught trying to help some Green Party type qualify for a local ballot. And they’re wrong. Up to now, these efforts have stayed just far enough below the radar that no one could identify it as any kind of national effort--meaning the national media didn’t really pay attention. Well no more.