The atmosphere was pretty subdued last night (Tuesday) when Republicans gathered in Lexington to watch election returns. By evening’s end, the lone G-O-P winner was Jamie Comer, who will be Kentucky’s next Agriculture Commissioners. So the rest of the Republican candidates are left wondering, what happened? Since the 20-10 general election, supporters of the ‘taxed enough already’ or ‘tea’ party have grabbed the attention of Kentucky’s politicians. A year ago, Tea Party voters were credited with playing a significant role in the election of political novice Rand Paul to the U-S Senate.
But, this election, the dynamics were different. In the primary, Tea Party backers got behind Louisville businessman Phil Moffett, but he lost to Senate President David Williams. Bowling Green state senator Mike Wilson says the loss inflicted a wound which didn’t heal quickly.
“That was something they were deeply disappointed in so it took them a long time to come around to say…you know let’s support David Williams,” said Wilson.
Phil Moffett attended last night’s Republican event. Whenever asked, Moffett says he advised people to support Williams. Still, he says members of the Tea Party are independent thinkers.
“There was a fairly even split between Galbraith and Senator Williams…none of them told me they would vote for Governor Beshear….but I tried to convince them to think about it in term of which one represents your principles most closely…you can’t sit out on the race,” added Moffett.
Plus, Kentucky Senate Caucus Chair Dan Seum’s also suspects a large number of tea partiers refused to cast ballots.
Former G-O-P gubernatorial candidate Larry Forgy reminds reporters, the Commonwealth’s only had two G-O-P governors since World War II. Admitting electing a Republican to the governor’s mansion is always a tall task, Forgy hopes tea party supporters didn’t make a difficult situation worse by staying away from the polls.
“I hope not because they’re gonna want to run some candidates and I think in Kentucky the….and I have been to many tea party meetings…in Kentucky they can play a major conservative role in this state,” said Forgy.
In fact, Damon Thayer, who’s one of the more outspoken Republican voices in the state senate, says some of the Tea Party ideas may still surface in legislation which will go before the 2012 general assembly.
“I’m proud to support tea party values like limited government…fiscal responsibility and free markets….and a lot of those principals will be behind many of the bills you’re gonna see the senate republican caucus file in January,” said Thayer.
There are also questions about the true size of Kentucky’s Tea Party, but it’s a given it has a voice in state politics. Phil Moffett anticipates tea party activists to be very vocal over the next year.
“With the national elections, I think they’re gonna be a very active group I don’t think they are going away…I think they get bigger over time…as long as we keep burying our own country in debt and as long as the government continues to expand at enormous rates, the tea party will be along to fight that,” explained Moffett.
So political pundits will work over the next several days evaluating election day 2011. As that process gets underway, the impact of Kentucky tea party members will certainly be considered part of the puzzle.