US Senate 2014: Is the honeymoon OVER for Mark Harris and the Tea Party?



Well, that was  quick.

In late June, the Draft Mark Harris committee was touting the hiring of Tracy Bengtson — a Mecklenburg County grassroots activist who was a key player in the election of Lt. Gov. Dan Forest — as political director.   On July 12, Bengtson resigned from that post.  

Harris, a Charlotte pastor and major player in the Southern Baptist Convention, had been generating some curiousity and excitement among religious conservatives and Tea Partiers seeking a candidate to support against incumbent Democrat senator Kay Hagan.

The fact that Georgia-based consultant Tom Perdue was spearheading the effort to draft Harris into the race started to raise some suspicions among the grassroots.  Perdue has been the longtime political strategist for former congressman and NCGOP chairman — and Thom Tillis ally — Robin Hayes.  Suggestions were made that Harris would serve as a stalking horse to split the conservative grassroots vote to benefit the Tillis campaign.

I talked with some sources close to Bengtson and the Harris draft campaign.  These sources tell me the Harris campaign is doing very little of the basic stuff — the serious business —  necessary for kick-starting a Senate campaign.   I was told that it was beginning to look like Harris — instead of running a serious, passionate grassroots campaign — would be used as merely a name on the ballot to draw away conservative votes.

(We reached out to Tracy Bengtson, who had no comment — other than to confirm her resignation from the draft campaign organization.)

The departure of Bengtson — and her substantial following — from the Harris campaign is sure to benefit the surging grassroots efforts of Cary physician Greg Brannon to unseat Hagan.

The media has pretty much been ignoring Brannon.  Today, Politico ran a story talking about how exciting Thom Tillis’s campaign is to folks in DC — breathlessly adding that Tillis stood a good chance of becoming chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the near future.  (According to Politico, what was his inspiration for first jumping into politics?  Getting a bike trail built.)

I saw another report where Karl Rove cited Thom Tillis as a candidate that really excites him.

The latest campaign reports show Tillis raising $250,000 for his Senate run.  The Brannon campaign claims it pulled in $150,000 during the same period.  That’s awfully close, when you consider Tillis’s reputation as THE political money-guy and the fact he’s IN the news EVERY DAY.  Recent polling shows  Brannon and Senate president pro tem Phil Berger posing the most serious threat to Hagan.  Tillis comes in close behind those two.

It looks a little premature to be placing the crown on Speaker Thom’s head, just yet.  If the Harris draft campaign does fizzle out — and this turns into a Brannon-Tillis race — we could be in for an epic clash (reminiscent of 2010 in Kentucky)  between the Tea Party and the Establishment in May.



17 thoughts on “US Senate 2014: Is the honeymoon OVER for Mark Harris and the Tea Party?

  1. When Tillis excites the leftist Politico newspaper AND GOP establishment hack Karl Rove, those are both clear signs that he would be an awful candidate and a worse senator. We have to do better if we are going to beat Hagan.

  2. We still need to get some other candidates in this race. Tillis will be toast with all his questionable activities involving donors. Harris doesn’t appear to be a “real” candidate. Brannon is good, but there’s the risk that his patients will say some nasty things about him — even if it’s not deserved criticism. I’d like to see at least one or two other conservatives join the race — they need to be people who can reach out to others in a compelling manner and unite the GOP, Tea Party, Liberty and Libertarian voters. Anyone have suggestions?

  3. No, no other conservative candidates need to jump into this race, unless the aim is to split up the conservative vote and hand the primary to Tillis. Harris fizzling out this early is a good thing, because it helps head off the potential for a split conservative electorate.

    Remember, we had a bunch of conservatives in the Presidential primary, who spent over a year ripping each other to shreds while Romney sat back and laughed. He spent the time quietly raising millions, then cruised to victory on Super Tuesday, and promptly got his ass handed to him in November because conservatives (once again) stayed home, since they had no one who legitimately represented them.

    There is a conservative standard bearer in the 2014 GOP Senate Primary. His name is Dr. Greg Brannon. He’s raising money, building infrastructure, raising name recognition, and polling competitively. He’s pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, pro-state sovereignty, and anti-ObamaCare. He knew he wanted to run very early on and has fully committed himself to defeating Kay Hagan.

    He’s the guy. There isn’t going to be another one. If you’re a conservative, get behind him. Casting around for more candidates only helps Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan.

    1. But shouldn’t we at least hear from one or two other candidates besides Greg Brannon? I’m not saying that we should beat the guy up — but what if there’s someone who else that people would like to hear from? And what if there’s a situation that came up that could make, God forbid, Brannon unelectable? Isn’t the purpose of a primary to vet candidates? I’m not saying to tear each other apart, but at least to give people a choice. Also, through the primary process we can discuss key issues and help prepare a candidate for the rigors of the general election. I agree that the presidential primary drug on for way too long and the candidates crushed the credibility of each other.

    2. Mr. Lakes is correct, there is only one conservative candidate and that is Greg Brannon! We MUST get behind him or we end up having the next Establishment RINO jammed down our throat once again. Conservatives are sick of this! We must put our money where our PRINCIPLES are and support Greg Brannon’s campaign so we can defeat any Republican establishment RINO in the primary and go on to defeat Hagan, who has been nothing but a sock puppet for this administration.

    3. Mr. Love you are right on regarding Greg Brannon! We do not need any other Conservative candidates.
      You should make note that Dr. Brannon speaks to and believes in the “Rule of Law” and the Constitution. These are what made this country run so well with Capitalism for two centuries!
      Washington DC is devoid of such beliefs except for about 100 House and Senate elected officials.

  4. Brannon is a Ron Paul “Liberty” candidate AKA Glen Bradley. Real conservatives will not get behind Brannon.

    1. Oh, real conservatives won’t, huh? Please explain which of Brannon’s positions is not conservative enough for you you. Is it his commitment to the protection of life from birth to natural death?

      His support of traditional marriage?

      His opposition to amnesty?

      Or maybe you dislike his support of the 10th amendment and states’ rights?

      Or do you disagree with his opposition to ObamaCare?

      Please, by all means, explain which of Brannon’s conservative positions you dislike.

    2. I am not totally sold on Brannon yet, but am leaning that way. The one position I do take is ANYBODY BUT TILLIS. Tillis is NOT a conservative, nor is he a candidate capable of beating Hagan. I would consider Virginia Foxx or Jim Cain, or maybe Berger. There are plusses and minuses to all the potential candidates for the Senate nomination, but the one that is almost all negative is Tillis, with Ellmers not far behind.

  5. Heard Greg Brannon speak at our group and I was impressed. Look forward to learning more about his ideas. I don’t care for Tillis at all. He’s about as conservative as my beagle…NOT.

  6. I meant to reply that Adam Love is CORRECT, not Mr. Lakes. We do not need any more candidates – we got ’em: Tillis is a RINO Establishment candidate and Greg Brannon is a citizen patriot, willing to undergo the heart aches and hardships of a campaign because he believes firmly in our conservative principles. Let’s get behind him and show Karl Rove he picks losers every time and does not represent the Conservatives in this beautiful RED STATE!

  7. Karl Rove sealed the deal for me about Tillis and Ms. Bengtson’s leaving Harris tells me all I need to know about Harris. I trust her judgment implicitly. I stand behind Dr. Brannon. I have personally met with him and know he truly wants to serve his country and his state. He has spent years studying the founders, our founding documents and our government to prepare himself for this moment. Dr. Brannon feels he must step up and do the right thing and try to LEAD us out of the disaster that Hagan and many Republicans vote for. There are no perfect candidates, but I do know one thing…ANYTHING BUT TILLIS THE ESTABLISHMENT RINO.

    1. Ginny, I’m not sure what Mrs. Bengtson’s decision says about Dr. Harris. I trust her judgment also, but the article does not say that she no longer supports Dr. Harris or that she now supports Dr. Brannon.

  8. Good comments. I agree with most. Well said Ginny and Adam. The left is busy beating up on Tillis since they’ve bought into the establishment meme that he will be our candidate. We The People of NC of course know better and are going to send a conservative who will stand on the floor with Rand Paul, Ed Cruz and Mike Lee, to the US Senate. Replacing Hagan is critical and having a citizen candidate who stands by the US Constitution is critical. We have that candidate now. Lets get #ABT trending on twitter.

  9. No one mentioned geography. McCrory, Tillis and Harris are Mecklenberg, Hagan, Burr and Berger are Triad. Brannon comes from the East and would offer a little balance, valued by some voters..The fact that he is the best candidate would be a bonus.

  10. This post seems a bit pre-mature. In reality November is kickoff. You don’t want to campaign early and then be forgotten because of time. Mark Harris has plenty of time to build up a personal campaign. Fyi, he’s done the basics and he’s also running a church. Harris has also had the most media attention without even trying. Imagine what he will do starting in November. I would say Mark Harris easily has the upper hand and no one even realize it.

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