No party

Politics | Tea partier Radtke in embarrassing quarrel with RedState editor Erickson
by Eric Burk
Posted 9/01/11, 06:09 pm

A quarrel erupted last week between Jamie Radtke, the tea party candidate seeking the GOP nomination for Virginia's U.S. Senate seat, and RedState blogger Erick Erickson, who at one point had endorsed Radtke.

It began at the RedState Gathering on Aug. 13, where Erick Erickson had asked Radtke to speak for 20 minutes and introduce director Stephen Bannon, whose documentary about Sarah Palin, The Undefeated, was next on the agenda. What happened then is somewhat hazy-no video of the speech has emerged.

In a post on RedState, blogger Loren Heal explained: "Radtke was told she had 20 minutes and [would be] introduced as a rock star, while many in the crowd, especially at the RedState insider tables, were expecting her to deliver a line or two and introduce Bannon. Lacking this context, no wonder they started shifting in their seats."

Audience reactions to her speech were mixed but at least one attendee liked it, tweeting, "Listening to @jamieradtke speak at #RSG11. She's killing it!"

The feud begins

On August 24 Politico reported Erickson's earlier endorsement of Radtke and noted that Erickson later backed down from his initial enthusiastic support. Politico quoted an Erickson email to the Radtke campaign: "My bosses [at Eagle Publishing] are huge Allen friends, not just fans. They are socially connected. So I'm having to tread carefully in this. Happy to help, but it's got me in a difficult position."

Erickson, unhappy that his email to Radtke had been leaked, retaliated with a post of his own. He quoted unnamed sources saying things such as "She gets an invite, gets a nice slot to talk, gets drunk, and gets so embarrassing that I have to duck away rather than embarrass her further with interviewing her."

"I assume this act of self destruction in front of 400 attendees of the RedState Gathering is why Jamie Radtke's campaign decided to orchestrate a hit job on me in the Politico after I both endorsed her campaign and allowed her to speak at the RedState Gathering," Erickson wrote, concluding, "Jamie Radtke is not a victim. She's a candidate. And clearly a bad one at that. Game over as far as I'm concerned."

The Radtke campaign promptly accused Erickson of libel. "Erick Erickson made an untrue and malicious attack on Jamie Radtke yesterday and repeated it again today," said campaign manager Carter Wrenn. Radtke complained it was another example of the "good 'ole boy Washington Establishment" trying to destroy the tea party.

Erickson updated his earlier blog post: "Jamie Radtke insists through her lawyer and the press that she was not drinking, so you'll have to ignore the reviews of those spectators who saw her performance and thought she had been. That, of course, raises other questions about her abilities on the campaign trail to give that performance sober."

The aftermath

Bloggers jumped in on both sides. Shaun Kenney of Bearing Drift said that the Radtke campaign was imprudent to leak the email. "Erickson feels burned, and for good reason…. and sadly, not because of anything Jamie Radtke directly did. But he's not the only one, and there's plenty of evidence to show that Jamie's good name has been misappropriated and abused."

Kenney advised Radtke to pack it in. "For Radtke 2012, it's time to fold the hand, walk away from the poker table, and fight another battle in the war for the soul of America."

On the other side, Marooned in Marin accused Erickson of trying to smear Radtke. "To label your opponent as an incoherent drunk with no proof is a low blow and reeks of desperate tactics by the 'good ole boy' GOP establishment to get rid of any outsiders and Tea Party challengers."

Radtke now blames the controversy on the George Allen campaign. "I had no desire to pick a fight with Erick Erickson," she told me. "I appreciated what he'd done, and I understood his circumstances. There's no incentive for me to pick a fight with the media. That doesn't pass the logic test."

Radtke added that she will not withdraw. "In any campaign there're bumps in the road. We're campaigning on the issues that we know people care about and we're out there proclaiming the truth, and we'll let the voters decide next June."

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