Tea Party Express starts barreling forward

By Sean Lengell, The Washington Times

From Alaska to Florida, the swelling “tea party” front catapulted underdog candidates in Republican primaries this year, but one of its greatest forces has been a highly organized California-based group initially formed to defeat Barack Obama’s presidential bid.

The Tea Party Express has donated at least $2.1 million to candidates in the past year and, beyond the money, its endorsements have given candidates the tea party stamp of approval – a coveted label for long-shot conservatives in this year’s unusually contested Republican primaries.

“They were the candidate that voters wanted; [voters] just needed to be aware that this person was competitive and could win,” said Tea Party Express spokesman Levi Russell. “That gives them the willingness to cast their vote for the true conservative.”

He said the group’s backing eliminates the fear of “wasting” a vote on a fringe candidate with no chance of winning.

In Alaska, it gave life to Joe Miller, a political neophyte who shockingly defeated eight-year incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski in a razor-thin primary contest. In Utah, it produced Mike Lee’s triumph over RepublicanSen. Robert Bennett, and it’s given Sharron Angle a shot at unseating Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate’s No. 1 Democrat.

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