By Lee Cary -
In a Republican primary run-off election for an open U.S. House of Representatives seat in a red state, the National Republican Congressional Committee (HRCC), and the G.O.P. state organization, leaned heavily toward the candidate chosen by the G.O.P. establishment to be the winner.
The designated loser, Robin Williamson, was backed by all the district’s Tea Party organizations.
Williamson initially competed for an open House seat, in a bright red district, against several Republican candidates. After the first round of voting, the two candidates with the most votes faced-off in a run-off election.
Williamson’s final opponent had not unanimously been the establishment’s first choice. Senior Republican Party players had endorsed others in the initial field of candidates, but after their first choice lost, their support shifted to Williamson’s remaining G.O.P. opponent.
The winner of the run-off election was almost certainly destined to win the general election. The presumptive new House member would be decided by Republican voters in a fair and open election, most thought. But, the deck was stacked against Williamson with cash and elected party officials’ endorsements. It was a pile-on.
Williamson faced an opposing Republican candidate backed by the full influence of the G.O.P. apparatus. The party, not the voters, would ultimately pick the winner.
Public endorsements for Williamson’s opponent included a senior party official heard to say, “The Republican Party tells the Tea Party when to sit down and when to stand up in Washington.”
Incumbent Republican House members offered endorsements, contributed cash, and traveled to the district to campaign for Williamson’s opponent.
In short, the G.O.P. establishment pulled out all the stops to make sure Williamson would not be the Republican candidate in the general election. Williamson believes that one of those “stops” meant feeding talking points to leftwing print journalists who misrepresented Williamson’s conservative positions.
When asked to comment on whether senior party officials should endorse primary candidates, a member of the Republican National Committee from Williamson’s state said, “It’s important that we filter out any Democrats only pretending to be Republicans.” While that’s true, it’s also unrelated in this instance. There was never any suggestion that any of the primary candidates were closet Democrats.
The politically savvy might say that this is just politics as usual, and, like the making of laws and sausages, is best left unobserved by the weak-of-stomach.
That may be generally true. But when the intervention of cash, focused by access to the state and national fund-raising apparatus of the G.O.P., aims to influence the victory of one Republican candidate over another, it goes beyond making sausage in the minds of many rank-and-file, citizen voters. It’s essentially represents fixing the outcome of an election to serve party interests. And that usurps the power and privilege of local voters to elect their own representation in government.
When asked if the NRCC provides funding assistance to Republican candidates in contested House primary elections, Daniel Scarpinato, NRCC Press Secretary, said, “We don’t get involved in primaries. Period.”
There’s no reason to doubt the literal veracity of Scarpinato’s statement. There’s no public record of campaign contributions to Williamson’s opponent written against NRCC accounts before the votes in the run-off election were counted. But there are other avenues through which to funnel deposits into a candidate’s campaign via contributions from G.O.P.-friendly political action committees (PACs), and loyal, individual Republican contributors called upon to support a particular cause or candidate.
Vastly out-spent, Williamson made a respectable showing in the run-off election, but lost.
Today, the G.O.P. establishment-backed candidate sits in the U.S. House of Representatives, deeply beholden to the party apparatus that chose the winner and, thereby, the loser.
Robin Williamson is a fictitious name, but the story is real. And it’s not the only one like it.