LA Times: Focus on Kentucky Senate Primary & Teaparty PowerSubmitted by SteveMT on Sun, 05/09/2010 - 15:26
Tea party activists, others focus on Kentucky after toppling Sen. Bennett in Utah
DAVID ESPO AP Special Correspondent
May 9, 2010 | 11:22 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) — After toppling three-term Republican Sen. Robert F. Bennett in Utah, tea party activists and other conservative critics shifted their sights Sunday to a mid-May primary in Kentucky, their next big challenge to a political establishment they have vowed to upend.
In contrast to Utah, where about 3,500 party activists determined which candidates would qualify for the ballot, the May 18 contest in Kentucky is a traditional primary election, open to all registered Republicans.
There, Secretary of State Trey Grayson has the support of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Rep. Hal Rogers, a veteran lawmaker and dozens of local political leaders.
"I rarely endorse in primaries, but these are critical times," McConnell said in a television ad that began airing in rent days. "President Obama's spending threatens to destroy more jobs. ... We need Trey's conservative leadership to help turn back the Obama agenda."
Grayson's challenger, Rand Paul, the son of former presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, has the backing of tea party activists, as well as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former GOP presidential candidate Steve Forbes and — after a switch last week — evangelical leader James Dobson.
Additionally, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint has endorsed Paul as part of an attempt to push the party rightward, calling him "a true conservative who will stand up to the Washington establishment."
"Rand is exactly the kind of leader Americans are looking for right now," DeMint said. "He's not a career politician and he's got the guts to stand up to the massive spending, bailouts and debt that are being forced on us in Washington."
While some public polls show Paul with a healthy lead, private surveys show a much closer race with more than two weeks remaining.
Earlier contests have produced mixed results for the insurgents.
Tea party activists are credited with helping one-time longshot Marco Rubio to a commanding position in the race for the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Florida.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who began the campaign as the favorite, quit the party and is now running as an independent in an unpredictable three-way race.
Last week, tea party activists failed to defeat a single incumbent in primaries in three states. In Indiana, they and DeMint backed a losing rival to former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, who is trying to mount a comeback.
DeMint was officially neutral in Utah. But he made no attempt to come to Bennett's aid, and quickly endorsed Lee in a video shown to the convention delegates later in the day.