Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fake Tea in Florida?

Christina Bellantoni at TPM reports that the sudden surge in Tea Party candidates in Florida has some folks in the GOP suspicious.

Fearing that even marginal voter preferences for tea party candidates could spell doom in November, Republicans now claim that the dozen or more Florida Tea Party candidates running for statehouse seats are part of some Sunshine State shenanigans.

[…]

Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for the Florida Republicans, said the GOP is adding up the evidence — five candidates in their 20s, who in some cases live hours from the districts in which they are seeking office, with little voting history.

“A lot of them are just out of college, who don’t actually live close to the districts they filed to run in,” Betta told TPMDC. “Who are these candidates who have come out of the blue? It really seems in our opinion to be something certainly different than the grassroots tea party movement.”

Roll Call is reporting that one candidate has a history of working with Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) who became a liberal darling last fall for his no-holds-barred attacks on the GOP from the floor of the House: “The Republican health care plan is ‘Don’t Get Sick,’ and if you do, die quickly.”

One of Rep. Alan Grayson’s pollsters is running for the state House in Florida as a Tea Party candidate, fueling Republican suspicions that the Democratic Congressman is using a newly formed third party to boost his own re-election bid.

On Friday, Victoria Torres, 44, of Orlando qualified to run as a Tea Party candidate in state House district 51 in the last hours of the qualifying period.

A call to Torres was returned by Nick Egoroff, communications director for the Florida Tea Party, who described Torres as a “quasi-paralegal assistant who works in a law office.” But apparently, Torres is also a pollster.

According to records from the Florida Department of State office, Torres incorporated Public Opinion Strategies Inc. in December 2008. In the first quarter of this year, Grayson’s campaign made two payments to her firm, totaling $11,000, for polling and survey expenses.

“She’s got various businesses on the side,” explained Egoroff, who confirmed Torres’ work for Grayson. “It’s just a business relationship. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

I’d love to think that the Democrats here in Florida were that clever by half, but I have a hard time believing that the party that is struggling to get their Senate front-runner Kendrick Meek out of the teens in his polling because hardly anyone outside of his district has heard of him and is facing a serious challenge by a billionaire newcomer would devote any time and energy to covert operations to subvert and discombobulate the Tea Partiers. They seem to be fully capable of doing that on their own without any help from the Democrats.