With time running out before the Republican U.S. Senate primary, Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke took an aggressive stance at the second of three U.S. Senate debates on Friday, repeatedly criticizing front-runner George Allen.
For his part, Allen attempted to ride out the storm by touting his endorsements from business groups and the National Rifle Association while focusing his criticism on President Barack Obama and former Gov. Tim Kaine, who the Republican nominee will face in November.
In doing so, he largely avoided making any missteps during an untelevised debate that was attended by a few hundred people and was unlikely to draw much attention during a weekend filled with graduations and Mother's Day activities.
Still, Radtke was relentless at taking aim at Allen's record on spending and said that career politicians need to leave Washington, not be sent there.
“Now George Allen, he was part of the problem. He voted for every single spending bill, added $3 trillion to the national debt and he voted for his own salary increase when we were deficit spending,” Radtke said in her opening statement.
Radtke, Allen, Del. Bob Marshall and Chesapeake minister E.W. Jackson are vying for the seat of Democratic Sen. Jim Webb. Webb unseated Allen from the Senate in 2006 but is not seeking a second term.
With a primary set for June 12, each of Allen's challengers are struggling to gain traction. In the Hampton Roads area, the race has drawn very little attention and a good portion of those in attendance came bearing the stickers of their preferred candidates already.
Jackson played on his ties to the region saying that someone from the area needs to be sent to the Senate, noting the importance of the port and the military presence in the region to the economy. He also took aim at local media for not covering his candidacy enough to his liking, drawing heavy applause that drowned out his comments.
But for the most part, Jackson focused his comments on `freedom' and how it is ultimately the answer to economic problems and Washington mandates, such as the requirement to buy health insurance.
Marshall touted his record on social issues, including his record on helping banning gay marriage in the state. Each of the candidates said spending needs to get under control and criticized the federal government's involvement in education.
While Allen joined the chorus of candidates who said he opposes Obama's health care reform, Radtke didn't give him a pass on that. She blamed him for running a bad campaign in 2006, giving Democrats the votes necessary to get the law passed.
At times, Radtke's repeated attacks on Allen resulted in uncomfortable murmurs from the crowd. Without naming Radtke, Jackson addressed the attacks in his closing statement.
“We cannot tear each other apart. Draw contrasts, yes, but one of us is going to have to fight Tim Kaine,” he said.