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WA primary: Tea party crashes

Consider for a moment the subject of the media political frenzy – that supposedly powerful, big grassroots movement going by the name of the Tea Party.

To judge from Washington primary results, they don’t look so big and powerful tonight. They look, rather, like minor players – the establishment favorites carried the day. (Or at least have so far, but the results seem decisive enough that reversals in the week to come are highly unlikely.)

In the U.S. Senate race on the Republican side – not the “Republican primary” since this is a top-two, all comers considered election – the establishment, non-Tea candidate was Dino Rossi, the former state senator and twice a gubernatorial candidate. He was much better known, had much more organizational and financial support than his opponent, and his win Tuesday wasn’t a surprise to much of anyone.

But here’s the numbers (as of this evening): Rossi 33.9%, Tea Party (and Sarah Palin) favorite Clint Didier 11.95%, and Tea second-runner-up Paul Akers 2.5%. For all the splash Didier made, and he made a lot of splash, the votes weren’t there – not nearly. Voters taken as a whole didn’t seem to have a problem with Rossi the (conservative) establishment candidate, as such. So much for the tsunami insurgency which Rossi, to his strategic credit, seems to have recognize was overrated (though, yes, he did cater to it more in the last two to three weeks than he had before).

The other key race was for the one open U.S. House seat, in Washington’s 3rd district (southwest Washington, from Olympia to Vancouver to the coast). All three significant candidates ran as conservatives, but of different shades. State Representative Jaime Herrera, widely considered the front runner, was probably the most establishment of the group in overall approach. David Castillo, who also had some backing from highly visible party people but also had some Tea support, was more or less in the middle. David Hedrick, a newcomer, ran full steam on Tea concentrate (privatize Social Security, for example).

The result? Herrera outpolled the other two put together (27.2% to 12% for Castillo and 13.8% for Hedrick). The perils of being flanked on both sides may have weighed down Castillo. But the overall strength ran heavily to Herrera.

Not a good night for the hard-core insurgency. We’ve had the suspicion for more than a year that it has been overrated. And for the most part, it seems to be, except when actual voters weigh in.

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