NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s tea party activists are hoping to expand their influence with the fall election, but the various groups around the state could be too divided to have much of an effect.
The Tennessean reports tea party groups hope to pick off a few members of the state legislature, with the idea of reshaping its leadership. But the groups have not agreed on which members to go after. Nor have they settled on a slate of candidates to support.
The situation in Tennessee may also indicate a broader problem for the tea party movement.
The grass-roots groups have been able to spark a debate about debt and taxes but have sometimes struggled to turn that passion into something more concrete.
Although not yet united across the state, some tea party groups have begun targeting local candidates.
Scott Hughes, a financial officer at a church, is running against state Sen. Doug Overbey, a Maryville Republican.
Hughes is being endorsed by the Tennessee Conservatives Fund, a political action committee supported by several tea party groups. But the PAC had only $26 as of March 31, according to campaign finance records, suggesting its endorsement carries little more than moral support.
Former Bridgestone Americas Communications Manager Courtney Rogers has challenged House Republican Caucus Chair Debra Maggart, a Hendersonville Republican.
Although the 8th District Tea Party Coalition has said it will take aim at Maggart, the district’s largest tea party group, Sumner United for Responsible Government, has said it will sit the contest out. That’s in spite of the fact that Rogers was the group’s president until she decided to run for office.
“We feel both women are excellent candidates each with their own unique strengths and perspectives and each will serve us in the state legislature in their own way,” the group has said in a statement.
And tea party groups have had little success building support for a challenger to U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.
Zach Poskevich, a political newcomer from Hendersonville, has courted tea party endorsements and drawn the support of many activists. But his campaign had raised less than $40,000 when reports were last filed with the Federal Election Commission in April.
Corker had raised nearly $10 million.
Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com