The Corner

George Allen’s Tea Party Challenger

Jamie Radtke earns only 4 percent of the vote in a theoretical primary with former senator George Allen (R., Va.). But she’s calling her long-shot bid for the Republican nomination “the Rubio/Crist race of Virginia.”

“When people learn about the senator’s record,” Radtke tells National Review Online, “it’s very disconcerting.” She lists his offenses: voting to raise the debt ceiling four times, voting to grant 40,000 earmarks, voting to approve Medicare Part D. Virginians want to populate Capitol Hill with “the Marco Rubios, the Rand Pauls, the Mike Lees” — not the George Allens — she maintains.

But are Republicans in the Old Dominion worried that Radtke, a former chairwoman of the Federation of Virginia Tea Party Patriots, might play the Sharron Angle to probable Democratic nominee Tim Kaine’s Harry Reid?

“We haven’t experienced that at all in Virginia,” Radtke replies. “First of all, I’m not an unknown quantity in Virginia politics.” Indeed, Radtke’s career includes a stint as a staffer for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee under then-chairman Jesse Helms, a shift as political and grassroots director for the Virginia Conservative Action PAC, and a term as president of the Richmond Tea Party. “Number two, I’m going around talking about substantive proposals,” Radtke adds. “This isn’t a campaign built on rhetoric.”

The most substantial of those proposals is a promise to cut government spending. Although she agrees with Rep. Paul Ryan’s plans for Medicare and Medicaid, she admits, “My biggest concern is the time it takes to balance the budget”: 26 years. If elected, Radtke would pick up the pace. Her proposed cuts would be deeper and more immediate — for a similar proposal, see Paul, Rand — and she would implement Ryan’s entitlement reforms more quickly. Finally, Radtke, who reminds voters that her family’s military service reaches back to the Revolutionary War, spies “savings in the defense budget.”

She also would vote against raising the debt ceiling, which she considers a de facto balanced-budget amendment. “People want to talk about a balanced-budget amendment,” Radtke says, “but that’s what the debt ceiling forces you to do. It takes years and years to pass an amendment, and you’ve got to get it ratified by the states. We have an immediate mechanism.”

The senatorial hopeful chafes at the suggestion that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be irresponsible: “I’m not suggesting anything different from what Barack Obama, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Mitch McConnell have done. They’ve all voted against the debt ceiling. To say that we would default on our debt is an absolute falsehood. There is no reason why we can’t pay the interest on our debt. There is plenty of cash to pay the interest on the debt and make our Social Security payments. We deficit-spend a third of our budget, not the entire budget.”

On another hot topic, Libya, Radtke is equally clear: “I don’t think we should be in Libya. I think we should get out. We didn’t have congressional authorization. We had U.N. support. We still have no clear goals. Under the litmus test laid out by the president, we should be involved now in Syria and other places. We don’t have the capacity to do that.”

As for Afghanistan, Radtke counsels, “I think we have to be careful that we have an exit strategy, and that’s different from an arbitrary deadline. We can’t continually be involved in nation building. It’s not the role of the military.”

Radtke brings another limited-government perspective to the Virginia GOP. And she’s banking on that distinctive outlook for her victory. “I think we’ve already done a really good job at standing out,” she says. “People want to send someone up to Washington, who is rocking the boat and standing up to [her] own party as necessary. That’s what we really need.”

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