The Tea Party in Virginia, New Jersey and Congress

Many were shocked today to learn that in Virginia the prominent Eric Cantor, a conservative Republican and House Majority Leader, was defeated in the primary by a Tea Party candidate. In Republican dominated congressional districts such resurgence of the Tea Party, which is not a Party, has nothing to do with tea, and is only vaguely related to a historic Boston event, should not be surprising. In the wake Cantor has stepped down from his leadership position.

In New Jersey we saw the Tea Party’s influence in the Primary races. In CD 3, where incumbent  Jon Runyan (R) resigned effective the end of this session, “establishment” candidate Tom MacArthur (R) received 15,261 votes, but Steve Lonegan (R) supported by Tea Party and other arch-conservatives, garnered 10,314 votes. In CD 7 Leonard Lance (R) won 15,609 votes in the primary narrowly beating the frequent Tea Party candidate David Larsen who received 13,105 votes. In CD 11, another Tea Party supported candidate Rick Van Glahn received a respectable 7,700 votes against incumbent Rodney Frelinghuysen’s 15,379 votes. While writing this diary, I am listening to incumbent Scott Garrett (R) (CD5) on his “Telephone Town Hall Meeting” where he takes calls from constituents, so far all friendly. Garrett had no opponent in the primary because he is beloved by the Tea Party, as well as banks and financial institutions.             .

One might say let the Republicans have their own internecine battles as it only weakens their general election candidate and helps the Democrat. There was hope on the part of Democrats that a Lonegan victory in CD 3 would benefit Aimee Belgard (D) who could run against an extreme extremist. That is true in a swing district. Tea Party candidates, however, run best in Republican territory where they have more likelihood of becoming a general election candidate and then winning the general race.

Unfortunately in Washington there are over forty Tea Party and strong conservatives who dominate the House’s agenda and stand in the way of even moderate or bi-partisan legislation. If New Jerseyans can not get a Democrat elected in the very red districted parts of New Jersey, let’s hope that the Tea party influence wanes and that elected Republicans can feel comfortable about taking moderate positions on issues and joining in bipartisan efforts to pass meaningful legislation. In the meantime the House continues inept, flailing, dangerous, and ineffectual while in New Jersey the Tea Party retains influence.  

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