POLITICAL INSIDER: Christie joins other GOP leaders in fending off Castle challenger

By Philip Elliott, AP
Saturday, September 4, 2010

POLITICAL INSIDER: Christie backs Castle

WASHINGTON — Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who rode voter anger to office in New Jersey last year, is endorsing Mike Castle’s bid to win the GOP primary in Delaware and is joining a pack of party leaders trying to block a tea party-backed candidate’s bid.

Christie, a graduate of the University of Delaware, endorsed Castle, a nine-term Republican congressman and former governor who is facing Christine O’Donnell. Republicans have rushed to paint O’Donnell as a fraud, citing shady financial records and a record of statements that are clearly not true.

“I urge every Republican out there from Delaware who believes in smaller, smarter government to send somebody like Mike Castle to the United States Senate,” Christie said outside the University of Delaware football season opener.

EDITOR’S NOTE — An insider’s view of this year’s elections based on dispatches from around the nation.

The latest example of O’Donnell’s problems: Twenty-one years after she began her undergraduate work, she can accurately call herself a college graduate as of this week. A spokesman for Fairleigh Dickinson University said O’Donnell on Wednesday earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature, which she has claimed for years.

Despite problems with O’Donnell’s record, establishment Republicans were taking no chances on winning in November.

Castle, Washington’s preferred candidate, went up with radio ads and rushed other parts of his media plan after Republicans watched Sen. Lisa Murkowski lose her Alaska primary to tea party-backed Joe Miller.

The Tea Party Express, a California-based group, has announced it is backing O’Donnell and plans to spend six figures in the race for Vice President Joe Biden’s former Senate seat in Delaware.

A shadowy group calling itself “The Tea Party” — taking advantage of the popular tea party groups around the nation — won’t be allowed on Michigan’s November ballot after an order Friday from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The high court’s 5-2 decision lets stand a ruling this week from the Michigan Court of Appeals that keeps “The Tea Party” off the ballot because it didn’t comply with some technical requirements in state law.

Republicans and tea party activists consider “The Tea Party” a Democratic-supported fake aimed at siphoning away votes from conservative candidates. The effort has connections to a former Oakland County Democratic Party official.

The appeals court ruled that “The Tea Party” could not be on the ballot because of an irregularity on its petitions circulated to make the ballot. The word “The” in “The Tea Party” was not in 24-point bold face type on its petitions as required by law.

The state Supreme Court denied a request to appeal, with the majority saying it was “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed” by the court.

“Today’s decision by the court is a win for all of the dedicated grass-roots activists who are part of the true Tea Party movement and it is a win for democracy,” Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser said in a statement.

Messages were left seeking comment from “The Tea Party” chairman Mark Steffek and attorney Michael Hodge after Friday’s ruling.

Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte — a former New Hampshire attorney general — received more than $10,000 from executives of a Texas company charged with deceptive trade practices.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott charged Houston-based TaxMasters Inc. and its chief executive officer, Patrick Cox, in May with multiple violations of the state’s deceptive practices and debt collection act. Cox, sales vice president Alex Clamon and salesman James Welch contributed a total of $10,600 last year to Ayotte’s campaign.

Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone told the Concord Monitor that Ayotte will watch the legal process and await an outcome. He said Ayotte will return the money if they are convicted of violating the law.

Quick hits:

— Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett said Friday he’s willing to “go to the carpet” to legalize the production of industrial hemp in Kentucky. The Louisville businessman voiced support for industrial hemp in a question-and-answer session with libertarian voters in Lexington on Thursday and again Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. Hemp is related to marijuana and currently all hemp products sold in the U.S. must be imported.

— Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina on Friday endorsed an oil company-funded ballot initiative that seeks to indefinitely delay California’s landmark global warming law. The announcement comes two days after the former Hewlett-Packard Co. chief executive refused to take a position during her debate with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer.

— NBC canceled Sunday’s “Meet the Press” debate between Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek and Republican Marco Rubio because the GOP nominee’s 83-year-old father is ill. Gov. Charlie Crist, running as an independent, had previously declined an invitation.

— Sen. Russ Feingold plans to speak at a massive Labor Day rally in Wisconsin. Just not when President Barack Obama will be there. Schedules show Feingold, a Democrat who faces a serious re-election challenge from Republican Ron Johnson, will be elsewhere in the state when the Democratic president speaks in Milwaukee.

Associated Press writers Tim Martin in Lansing, Mich., Norma Love in Concord, N.H., Roger Alford in Frankfort, Ky., and Judy Lin in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.

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