cloudy
Sunday February 14th, 2016 6:28PM

Tea party losing races but tugging GOP rightward

By The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Tuesday's high-profile primary elections may extend a streak of sorts for tea party Republicans: losing individual races but winning the larger ideological war by tugging the GOP rightward.

Several tea party-endorsed candidates are struggling in Tuesday's Republican congressional primaries in Georgia, Kentucky and Idaho. In each state, however, the "establishment" Republican candidates have emphasized their conservative credentials, which narrows the party's philosophical differences.

Citing similar dynamics in other states, Democrats say the GOP candidates who are trying to give Republicans control of the Senate will prove too far right for centrist voters in November.

Republicans need to gain six Senate seats to control the chamber. Holding Kentucky and Georgia against well-funded Democrats, both women, is crucial to their hopes.

Six states hold primaries Tuesday. Georgia, Kentucky and Oregon have closely watched Republican contests for Senate. Pennsylvania and Arkansas have feisty gubernatorial primaries.

In Idaho, tea party-backed lawyer Bryan Smith is trying to oust Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who's seeking a ninth House term.

In Kentucky, tea partyers would love to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a 30-year senator they see as too accommodating to Democrats. But challenger Matt Bevin has struggled under a barrage of attacks from McConnell and his allies.

McConnell, caught off guard by the tea party movement in 2010, has scrambled to win support from conservatives who dislike compromise. He quickly allied himself with Sen. Rand Paul, who defeated McConnell's hand-picked candidate in the 2010 primary.

And in February, McConnell voted against raising the debt ceiling, a never-pleasant vote that past party leaders often swallowed to avert a government default.

In Georgia, the Republican primary to succeed retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss drew a crowded field, including three U.S. House members. All are battling for the top two spots, with a July 22 runoff virtually certain.

Polls suggest Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, who espouse tea party principles, may have faded in recent weeks. Georgia's former Secretary of State Karen Handel won endorsements from Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express.

Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue have walked a careful line: showing more openness to establishment support while still catering to hard-core conservatives who dominate Republican primaries. When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed Kingston, Broun called him "the king of pork."

That tag might have fit a few years ago. Kingston, a longtime Appropriations Committee member, has proudly steered millions of federal dollars to his district.

But tea party-driven attacks on federal spending have sent Republicans scurrying to tighter-fisted ground. Kingston raised eyebrows in January when he voted against an appropriations bill after working hard to insert funding for Savannah's port.

In a sign of the narrowing differences between tea party activists and traditional Republican groups, Kingston was endorsed by Brent Bozell, an outspoken critic of Republican "moderation."

And the Chamber backed Kingston even though he has opposed two of its priorities: raising the debt ceiling, and overhauling U.S. immigration policies to allow legal status for millions of people living here illegally.

"I don't agree with folks in my family on every single issue, but I love them," said Chamber of Commerce political director Rob Engstrom.

In Oregon, Republicans hope to knock off first-term Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley in November. Seeking the GOP nomination Tuesday are pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby and state Rep. Jason Conger.

Arkansas' primary holds drama for several state offices, but the U.S. Senate showdown will come this fall. Two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor and first-term GOP Rep. Tom Cotton will claim their parties' nominations Tuesday.

Cotton cleared the Republican field partly by steering solidly right on key issues. He differed with his fellow Arkansas Republicans, for instance, by voting against a major farm bill, which conservatives found too costly.

Some conservatives and liberals alike reject the notion that the Republican establishment is taming the tea party movement this spring. They point to Thom Tillis, who won the Senate nomination in North Carolina by defeating leaders of the tea party and the Christian Right.

Democrats say Tillis, speaker of the North Carolina House, is no moderate. He led the way for cuts in taxes, education spending and unemployment benefits. He boasts of rejecting federal funds to expand Medicaid.

"He is as in synch with the tea party as they can get," said state Democratic spokesman Ben Ray.

Conservative activists say much the same thing, albeit with pride.

Matt Kibbe, who has feuded with McConnell as political chief of FreedomWorks, said the self-described liberty movement is winning the larger battles within the GOP.

"We've already changed the narrative, and the Republican Party is running on the principle of limited government," Kibbe said. "Now we have to figure out what to do with a seat at the table."

Bozell, who founded the conservative Media Research Center, said of the Republican primaries: "With virtually no exception, everyone is running as a conservative. No one is running as a moderate, no one is running as an anti-tea-partyer."

---

Associated Press writers Bill Barrow in Georgia and Adam Beam in Kentucky contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2016 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 1 year ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 1 year ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
State DOT awards $48M contract for NE Ga. road project
The state Department of Transportation has awarded a $47.8 million contract for nine miles of work on a northeast Georgia road.
9:37AM ( 1 year ago )
Business News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 1 year ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 1 year ago )
Maysville man dies from Banks County wreck
The Georgia State Patrol reports that alcohol and/or drugs were factors a single-vehicle wreck that claimed the life of a Maysville man in Banks County Tuesday night.
11:07AM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 1 year ago )
Conviction of Putin foe sets off protest in Moscow
President Vladimir Putin's chief political foe was convicted along with his brother on Tuesday in a fraud case widely seen as a vendetta by the Kremlin, triggering one of Russia's boldest anti-government demonstrations in years.
6:03PM ( 1 year ago )
More Georgians signing up for health insurance
A federal report says more Georgians have selected health insurance plans through a federally facilitated marketplace.
4:16PM ( 1 year ago )
Politics
U.S, Cuba to resume commercial flights for 1st time in 50 years
The United States and Cuba will sign an agreement next week to resume commercial air traffic for the first time in five decades, starting the clock on dozens of new flights operating daily by next fall, U.S. officials said Friday.
By The Associated Press
9:35PM ( 1 day ago )
New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain are emerging
WASHINGTON (AP) — New details about the possible effects of the Zika virus on the fetal brain emerged Wednesday as U.S. health officials say mosquito eradication here and abroad is key to protect preg...
6:22PM ( 4 days ago )
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus and the mosquitoes that spread it here and abroad, but says "there s...
10:40PM ( 5 days ago )
Search for Missouri couple wanted for crimes across the South, including Ga., ends with one suspect dead and the other wounded
A weeklong search for a Missouri couple wanted in a series of robberies and abductions across the South ended with one suspect dead and the other wounded Friday, after authorities say they chased the pair across the highway and through a rural neighborhood and exchanged gunfire with them in Florida's Panhandle.
By The Associated Press
9:57PM ( 1 week ago )
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while, buoying consumers, frustrating oil producers
Cheap oil will be sticking around for a while.That reality is wreaking havoc and causing uncertainty for some governments and businesses, while creating financial windfalls for others. Less expensive...
6:18PM ( 1 week ago )