What happens when one of the fiercest tea party freshmen loses in a member-member primary? In the case of Florida Rep. Sandy Adams, she starts to talk a bit like a proponent of campaign finance reform.
"The lesson learned is if you have more money you can come in and create a different illusion," she said in an interview with the Alley. "I'm concerned."
This was the case in her primary loss to 10-term congressman John Mica, who at the end of July had more than twice as much cash on hand as Adams, and who spent $431,000 to her $78,00 in July.
Because of that financial difference, she said, Mica was able to cast himself as a "true conservative."
"He moved to our message, one about reducing spending and cutting earmarks," she said. "People liked what I was saying, so they were going to like what he said."
Of course, when asked if she thought this was a case to limit money in politics, Adams wouldn't go that far.
"I believe in the first amendment," she said. "I'm not even going to go there."
Adams was the first member of her 87-person GOP class to lose her bid for reelection. With her departure the class lost a tea party stalwart that the New York Times once dubbed the "toughest freshman." But Adams noted that just because she lost in the primary, nobody should look at it as a sign that the freshman influence is waning. It's not, after all, like she lost to a Democrat.
"This isn't anything bad for the freshman class or the tea party because he ended up having the same message that we all have," she said.
Like most members leaving Congress, Adams described her two years as an "honor," but that didn't mean that it was without lows. After getting her version of the Violence Against Women Act through the House, she said it was incredibly frustrating to have it stall in the Senate.
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Photo: Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Fla., speaks on Capitol Hill on May 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)