Pro: A first-term tea partier may leave a bitter taste in GOP mouths this fall
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is addressing the question, “Will tea party candidates hurt (or help) the GOP this fall?”
WASHINGTON -- Aside from former House Speaker Eric Cantor’s ambush by mild-mannered college professor David Brat, tea-party candidates have fared poorly against establishment Republicans this year.
But the biggest threat to the GOP this fall may well come from a tea-party disciple already ensconced in a House seat and leading his primary foes in north-central Florida’s sprawling 3rd District.
Democratic strategists already have a small library full of videos, newspaper clips and press releases cataloging Rep. Ted Yoho’s somewhat intemperate remarks.
And they are planning to publicize them nationally this fall to paint Republicans as conservative Neanderthals who would take the nation back to the 1950s and perhaps further.
A 59-year-old veterinarian, Yoho narrowly defeated long-term Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns in the 2012 GOP primary by 829 votes—a margin of 1.1 percent—and then went on to sweep the general election with 66 percent of the vote.
If he retains the seat—and he currently owns a comfortable margin over traditional conservative Jake Rush—Yoho should be a shoo-in in the heavily Republican district this fall.
Earlier this year, Yoho received a ringing endorsement from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, a tea-party favorite who is immensely popular in Florida.
Since then Yoho has made a number of video-recorded statements that have the Democratic National Committee slavering like a Pavlovian dog. Among them:
-- He repeatedly called the Voting Rights Act “unconstitutional” and has even advocated a return to Jim Crow laws. At a recent town hall meeting in Gainesville, Fla., Yoho responded to an African-American man who asked him if he thought “any part of the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional.”
Yoho replied “Is it unconstitutional. I wish I could answer that 100 percent. I know a lot of things that were passed are not constitutional, but I know it’s the law of the land.”
-- Yoho also was recorded during an appearance at a Baptist Church in Ocala, Fla., as suggesting that only property owners have a right to vote. “I’ve had some radical ideas about voting, and it’s probably not a good time to talk about them, but you used to have to be a property owner to vote,” he told the applauding congregation.
-- Yoho also has raised eyebrows by including in his standard anti-Obamacare rant the view that sections slipped into law taxing tanning beds “are racist” because they discriminate “against white people.” He noted that nonwhites don’t need to use tanning beds, asserting, “So therefore it’s a racist tax because I got taxed because of the color of my skin.”
While Yoho leads Rush by a healthy margin, the former sheriff’s deputy recently jump-started his campaign and hopes to start gaining some ground.
Much will depend on whether Rush can pull off an upset win in Clay County, a fast-growing jurisdiction of 200,000 that’s included in the greater Jacksonville metro area, where some 40 percent of the district’s voters reside. Statistically, the newcomers have made the county better educated and more affluent than the district’s two more rural counties.
Unlike Mississippi, where Democratic voters—mostly African-Americans—crossed over in significant numbers last month to boost GOP Sen. Thad Cochran past tea-party challenger Chris McDaniel, Florida has a closed primary preventing such a maneuver.
Although they would prefer to make Yoho a national poster boy for all Republicans, Democratic lawyers are unlikely to challenge the Florida law at this late date, especially since Yoho seems to be retaining his double-digit lead.
And with Florida’s Aug. 26 primary a month away, Rush, an amateur actor who has portrayed action-figures in plays, may soon need to be looking for a telephone booth to slip into his Superman costume.
Wayne Madsen is a regular contributor to the progressive online journal Intrepid Report. His articles have appeared in leading newspapers in the U.S. and Europe. Readers may write him at NPC front desk, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC 20045.