What To Do If You're Tea Party And It's The Illinois Senate Race

Supporters of the Tea Party movement in Nevada are clear about their next step: defeat Harry Reid in November. In Kentucky, they like Rand Paul in next month's GOP primary. And as we saw in Arizona, they love Sarah Palin but less sure about John McCain.

But what to do about the Illinois Senate race?

Forget about Alexi Giannoulias, they say. A Democrat and current state treasurer, Giannoulias is still reeling from a devastating headline in the Chicago Tribune on Friday ("$20 Million In Loans To Felons") and a more troubling accompanying piece that talked about how Giannoulias' family bank (Broadway Bank) "loaned a pair of Chicago crime figures about $20 million during a 14-month period when Giannoulias was a senior loan officer":

Public records do not show which bank officials negotiated or approved any of the loans. Giannoulias declined to be interviewed by the Tribune or to review public records outlining the bank's loans.

In a written statement from his campaign, Giannoulias said he did not play a central role in the loans. "In retrospect, I think the added security of a background check would have been good, and I believe that many more banks — including Broadway — now include such checks as part of the loan-making process," he added.

Even without the whiff of scandal, Giannoulias doesn't seem to be the kind of candidate whom Tea Party activists could rally behind.

But what about the Republican nominee, Rep. Mark Kirk? He looks to be having the same trouble with the TP as Giannoulias.

He's "perhaps the most targeted local Republican," writes the Tribune's Oscar Avila. Tea Party activists consider him "a phony conservative because of his June vote for 'cap-and-trade' legislation that would increase the government's role in reducing carbon dioxide emissions":

Several tea party groups endorsed Patrick Hughes in the February Senate primary. After Hughes ended up with 19 percent of the vote, state GOP Chairman Pat Brady drew the ire of tea partiers when he dismissed the anti-Kirk movement as "fringe."

In Illinois, tea party members are divided over how to view Kirk's general-election fight against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias.

Maria Rodriguez, the village president of Long Grove and a tea party sympathizer, urged Gurnee participants to be pragmatic in the general elections, even when they do not agree with a candidate 100 percent. They should vote for whoever is "not liberal Democrat," she said.

But David Hale, the coordinator of the Rockford Tea Party, said he could not vote for Kirk.

"At some point, we need to make choices on principle," he said. "Just because you have an 'R' behind your name doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to vote for you lock, stock and barrel."

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