Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation co-founder Jamie Radtke (R) stepped on the national stage Thursday as she addressed the inaugural meeting of the Senate Tea Party Caucus -- a move that raises her profile as she challenges former Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) in his bid to reclaim the seat he lost to Sen. Jim Webb (D) in 2006.
Radtke, a campaign consultant, said she was driven to run for the Senate because of the country's financial problems. She targeted Allen for supporting appropriations bills that she said added $3 trillion to the national debt and called him out for his votes in favor of raising the debt ceiling.
Allen voted to raise the debt ceiling each time it came up during his tenure in the Senate: 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Only one Republican voted against raising the debt ceiling each time: Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). Former Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) split in 2002 but voted the same as Allen the last three times.
"The Tea Party movement would not exist today if the Republicans had not failed under the Bush years," said Radtke.
Asked whether Allen should have voted against those appropriation bills, Ratdke said: "Well, a good starting point is not to have 40,000 earmarks of your own" in those bills.
"When you look at the current climate right now, people are wanting to cut the overall spending," she said, adding that the public wants to "shrink" the federal government and has a "distaste for earmark spending."
Radtke said she would join the Senate's Tea Party Caucus if elected and backed Paul's proposed budget that would cut $500 billion in federal spending.
"I was very excited to see the plan would eliminate several departments and slash spending in many others," she said to the caucus according to prepared remarks.
Radtke is the first declared challenger to Allen but two elected officials from Prince William County are also weighing primary bids: Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart (R) and state Del. Bob Marshall (R).
She said that she shares an understanding with Stewart that conservatives need to unite behind one candidate in order to defeat Allen. However, Marshall has threatened to jump into the Senate race if the Republican candidates do not adequately address abortion among other social topics.
"I am talking about those issues. I'm strongly pro-life and I'm strongly pro-family and pro-marriage and that will not change on the campaign (trail)," said Radtke. "George Allen has some explaining to do on his pro-life position."
In a questionnaire published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Oct. 22, 2006, Allen stated that though he is against abortion, "any changes to Virginia's law should provide exceptions for rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother."