Third district primary will test "tea party" phenomenon

I view last year’s “tea party” activism primarily as a corporate-funded “astroturf” movement hyped by Fox News and conservative talk radio, but some Republicans insist the tea partiers are a real grassroots force to be reckoned with. This year’s Republican primary in Iowa’s third Congressional district will give some indication of who’s right.

Five GOP candidates are competing for the chance to run against seven-term incumbent Leonard Boswell. Two of them have significant backing in the Republican establishment: various elected officials are supporting State Senator Brad Zaun, while a bunch of major donors are supporting Jim Gibbons.

Long-shot candidate Dave Funk was the first Republican to enter this race, and he announced yesterday that “Iowa Tea Party Chairman Ryan Rhodes has joined the campaign team as Political Director”:

“We are happy to have Ryan on board and feel that he is a strong addition to the campaign,” says Funk. Rhodes has led the efforts of the Tea Party in Iowa as well as well as coordinating with the National Tea Party Patriots. “Dave is the right man at the right time to bring solid leadership to Iowa’s Third District, something we have been lacking for a long time.”

As Iowa Tea Party Chairman Rhodes has coordinated many grassroots efforts across the state and helped other states fight against unchecked growth and the stranglehold of big government. “Dave isn’t just a late comer to the Tea Party for political purposes. He has been there from the beginning and I believe he is someone we can trust to be a true voice of the people for limited government in Washington.”

Funk says, “Having known and worked closely with Ryan for much of the past year, he has proven himself capable and insightful beyond his years. We are excited to have him on board as our Political Director as we go through the primary process to challenge and ultimately defeat Leonard Boswell next November restoring loyalty to our Constitution, our Liberty and the People of Iowa.”

I’m guessing that the forces funding and publicizing the national “tea party” movement won’t weigh in against two establishment candidates in this Republican primary, and Funk will therefore not be able to compete with the front-runners. On the other hand, a surprisingly strong showing for Funk in June might indicate that there is more popular support behind the “tea parties” than I imagine.

What do you think, Bleeding Heartland readers?

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