POLITICO Reports On Downer/Tea Party Flap

It appears the story of Hunt Downer missing last week’s 3rd District congressional debate is picking up steam less than a week before Election Day, a development the Downer campaign can’t be happy about.

POLITICO.com picks up the story in a post this morning:

Late opposition from tea party activists is complicating Louisiana Republican Hunt Downer’s path to the 3rd District nomination.

Downer, a prominent former state House speaker, faces a crowded Saturday primary against attorney Jeff Landry and industrial engineer Kristian Magar. And he’s come under attack from the Tea Party of Louisiana, which has criticized the Republican on issues ranging from his record on taxes in the state Legislature to his decades as a Democrat.

“Hunt Downer was a Democrat for 30 years before conveniently switching to the Republican Party,” blares a new Web ad from the group, noting that in 2007 he received $5,000 in contributions from former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco. “Stop Hunt Downer from going to Washington.”

At the heart of the opposition is Downer’s decision to skip an August forum that was sponsored by the Baton Rouge Tea Party. After the forum, the organization sent out a press release declaring, “The Tea Party of Louisiana will not sit quietly while a wolf in sheep’s clothing like Downer runs around and ‘pretends’ to be a tea party activist.”

Downer’s campaign insists that Downer supports the Tea Party movement and that a scheduling conflict caused him to miss the debate. That hasn’t calmed Tea Party activists down much.

In the POLITICO article, though, longtime Louisiana political analyst John Maginnis is quoted as saying Downer needs to win the primary on Saturday without a runoff or else the Tea Party will probably beat him, with the theory being that Jeff Landry and Kristian Magar will split the Tea Party vote. But with Tea Party identifiers being more than 65 percent of the Republican electorate in the 3rd District, one wonders if Maginnis has all the facts for an informed calculus on this one.

Either way, it’s not the kind of publicity Downer is looking for this close to the election. And if he ends up in a runoff, he’s likely to have a lot of trouble with the Tea Party groups angry about his missing the debate.

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