There are signs that tea party calls to repeal the 17th Amendment -- taking the selection of U.S. Senators out of the hands of voters and putting it in the hands of state governments -- are proving to be a bridge too far for Republican candidates desperate to steal some of the movement's mojo. In the past couple weeks, at least two mainstream Republican candidates have found themselves walking back from pledges to support repealing the amendment, suggesting there's a limit to how much support the tea parties can provide.
The "Repeal The 17th" movement is a vocal part of the overall tea party structure. Supporters of the plan say that ending the public vote for Senators would give the states more power to protect their own interests in Washington (and of course, give all of us "more liberty" in the process.) As their process of "vetting" candidates, some tea party groups have required candidates to weigh in on the idea of repeal in questionnaires. And that's where the trouble starts.
In Ohio, Steve Stivers -- the Republican attempting to unseat Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in the state's 15th District -- came under fire from Democrats when it was revealed he had checked the box saying he would repeal the 17th Amendment on a tea party survey (see question 11 here).
Kilroy's campaign set up a website slamming Stivers for the stance, and attacked him in the press.
Stivers flip-flopped almost immediately, telling the Columbus Dispatch that despite the survey (and a January quote in The Hill), he didn't know what he was saying when he called for an end to Senators elected directly by the people they represent.
"I made a mistake," Stivers told the paper. "I answered that question wrong. It was not intentional."
In Idaho, Republican Vaughn Ward is in a similar pickle. Ward, the NRCC's choice to challenge Rep. Walt Minnick (D), is currently locked in a primary fight with state Rep. Raul Labrador. As happens so often in Republican primaries these days, the candidates are doing their best to appeal to the ultra-conservative vote. (And considering that Minnick is the lone Democrat to be called a Hero by the Tea Party Express, we're talking extra tasty crispy conservative here.).................................