George Allen was endorsed Friday by a favorite of national tea party Republicans, as Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson came to Virginia to boost Allen’s bid to join him on Capitol Hill.
Johnson was the owner of a plastic manufacturing company and a political novice when he beat prominent liberal Sen. Russ Feingold (D), giving him instant credibility among conservatives. Johnson has been closely identified with the tea party movement, which lent crucial support to his candidacy.
Johnson came to Richmond Friday to attend a business roundtable discussion with Allen, who faces three conservative opponents in his June 12 Senate GOP primary — Bishop Earl Jackson, Del. Robert Marshall (Prince William) and former Virginia Tea Party Patriots head Jamie Radtke.
“George Allen has a record of standing up for job-creators and fighting against Washington’s job-destroying regulations and overspending,” Johnson planned to say at the event, according to a release from the Allen campaign. In a separate fundraising e-mail, Johnson said “Allen was one of only 15 Senators who voted against the Bridge to Nowhere and pushed for a Balanced Budget Amendment and a Line-Item Veto, two things he’s running on today.”
Johnson is known a crusader against earmarks, a fact that the campaign of former governor Timothy M. Kaine, the Democratic Senate candidate, sought to use against Allen.
“No amount of elbow-rubbing from the Tea Party will erase the $3 trillion George Allen added to our national debt or the tens of thousands of earmarks he supported as a Senator,” said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.
Kaine’s campaign highlighted a 2006 Richmond Times-Dispatch report that quoted Allen at a Chesterfield County Town Hall meeting saying: “Every single earmark I’ve gotten, I’m proud of.” (The quote was repeated in a Politifact article this week on Radtke’s claim that Allen “voted for 40,000 earmarks” in the Senate.)
Allen spokeswoman Katie Wright said his 2006 quote was being taken out of context, and that his point was that he believed in transparency and was willing to put his name on the earmarks he had received. Wright also said that given the current size of the national debt, Allen “does not think there should be earmarks until the budget is balanced.”