By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG – Some Virginia tea partiers are steamed at the state Tea Party Patriots Federation, which ranked lieutenant governor candidate Corey Stewart No. 1 in the seven-way contest for the GOP nomination.
The umbrella group of 50 tea parties across the commonwealth listed the Prince William County Commission chairman as the top candidate based on responses to a lengthy questionnaire. Though the federation did not call it a formal “endorsement,” the ranking rankled a few tea party activists in Stewart’s own county.
Greg Letiecq, a director of the Manassas Tea Party, called the vetting process “bulls—t.”
“You’d think if (the federation) was doing a decent job, they would at least contact the tea parties in the candidates’ own areas,” he told Watchdog.
Letiecq, whose tea party is not a member of the federation, and other tea leaders in the region are advising their members to “vote your conscience” at the state Republican nominating convention this weekend in Richmond.
Letiecq supports state Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge. So does Mark Fitzgibbons, a Manassas Park lawyer and self-described “tea party and constitutional conservative activist.”
John Jaggers, director of operations for the Northern Virginia Tea Party, said he’s keeping his options open in the lieutenant governor’s race.
Mark Daugherty, chairman of the federation, did not respond to Watchdog’s request for comment. The Augusta County activist told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that each tea party group can decide for itself whether it wishes to endorse a candidate, at any level.
Jamie Radtke, a U.S. Senate candidate last year and co-founder of the tea party federation, has endorsed Susan Stimpson, chairwoman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors.
Some tea partiers said they resented what they called the federation’s “top-down” approach in a movement that takes pride in its grassroots efforts. Others say the federation got it right in putting Stewart on top.
Arlene Smith, who chairs the Arlington Tea Party, said she supports Stewart and hopes her group will “move forward in solidarity” at the convention.
Making up roughly 1,000 of the 13,000 delegates attending the convention, tea party members could provide the winning margin in a crowded race.
Other Republicans vying to succeed Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling are former state Delegate Jeanmarie Davis, Bishop E.W. Jackson, state Sen. Stephen Martin and businessman Pete Snyder.
Snyder and Jackson came in second and third in the federation’s rankings.
Shaun Kenney, at the conservative website, Bearing Drift, noted that Jackson, followed by Snyder, were the first lieutenant governor candidates to condemn the controversial state transportation tax increase enacted earlier this year.
While some tea partiers have criticized Stewart’s aggressive campaign tactics — including third-party mailers attacking other candidates — state GOP Chairman Pat Mullins told Breitbart News the party “has from the beginning been, and will remain, scrupulously neutral in regard to all nomination contests.”
Stewart’s campaign did not respond to Watchdog’s request for an interview.
The lieutenant governor, whose duties include casting tie-breaking votes in the state Senate, holds a pivotal position at the Capitol as long as the chamber remains evenly balanced with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
Kenric Ward is chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward Like Watchdog.org? Click here to get breaking news alerts in your state.